Jacksonville’s new planning and development chief is a former Navy civilian director who says he wants to ensure the city grows responsibly and in an environmentally sustainable way.
R. Brett James sped into his new job this week, after Mayor Donna Deegan announced his appointment.
James most recently served as director of strategic planning for the Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command in San Diego. He was an asset management team lead for the Navy in Jacksonville from December 2010 to October 2015.
The job of Jacksonville’s planning director is to administer, enforce and interpret the city’s zoning code, as well as handle growth management and make recommendations to the Planning Commission and City Council.
James also will work with the city’s chief resiliency officer and be involved in the permitting process.
James said he is looking forward to the challenge of helping Jacksonville become a greater city over the long and short term. He said the city’s population is projected to grow by about 600,000 people over the next 50 years, so figuring out how to keep the city growing in a smart way will be important.
“I just want Jacksonville to be a great city, and to get there we’re going to build on whatever we’ve done and we’re going to get together and see what needs to change, if anything, in terms of how we’re going to grow out,” James said.
He said he is working to learn what works and doesn’t work in the city, understand what vision people have in mind for the community, and be mindful of how sea level rise will play a factor in future development.
In the end, James said, the way the city grows will be a combination of what the government and the people want the city to look like.
James replaces Bill Killingsworth, Jacksonville’s planning director since late 2015. Killingsworth retired effective July 29.
James got a master’s degree in regional and city planning in 1997 from the University of Oklahoma and is a certified city planner and landscape architect, according to his LinkedIn page.
“His successful career brings a fresh perspective and a wealth of knowledge to Jacksonville, both of which will benefit our citizens now and into the future,” Deegan said in a statement announcing his appointment.
James still needs City Council approval to remain on the job in coming months.