By Mike Steely

The search for a new Executive Director of the Metropolitan Planning Commission took a step last week. December 31st was the deadline for applications and now the selection got to a search committee made up of people chosen by Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero and Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett.


Committee members include Dean Rice, Chief of Staff to Mayor Burchett and Bill Lyons, Deputy to May Rogero, who serve as co-chairs. Other members include planning commission Vice-Chair Bart Carey, MPC Commissioner Herb Anders, Former County Commissioner Wanda Moody, and Stephanie Welch, Vice President of Operations for Community Schools at the Greater Schools Partnership.


Interviews of the applicants should begin next week.


Thirty-eight applications have been received, The Focus has learned, but only 15 of those applicants actually meet all the requirements. A certification by the American Institute of Certified Planners and a minimum of 10 years experience are the two that some applicants don’t have.


In an exclusive to The Focus it was found that there is no set time frame in making a recommendation to both mayors. The search process could continue for several months.


“We want to take a much time as needed and make the right choice,” Rogero said.


Mayors Rogero and Burchett are part of the selection committee, which will review the applications, conduct interviews and the two mayors will make the decision. The mayors do not need the approval of the City Council, County Commission, or the MPC.


“The most important thing is to identify and hire the best person to lead the MPC, which plays a vital role in helping plan for continued economic and community development,” Mayor Roger told The Focus. “MPC also is responsible for protecting and enhancing a high quality of life in our neighborhoods,” she stated.


“As I’ve said all along, the next MPC Executive Director should provide strong, collaborative leadership for all those efforts,” she said.


When asked to release the names of the applicants Mayor Rogero’s office explained that the names are available but have asked the news media not to release them, explaining that several of those who applied are employed and making the names public could harm their employment.


The City funding of the MPC for the current year is $905,000 and Knox County contributes $636,000. The planning commission serves both governments and is comprised of citizens of both the city and the county. The Executive Director is employed by both city and county and the former director, Mark Donaldson, was receiving $110,000 per year.


Jeff Welch is currently serving as interim MPC director. He is the Director of the Knoxville Regional Transportation Planning Authority and, during the appointment, is wearing two hats. Mayor Rogero’s office told The Focus that his compensation “has been poorly explained income local media.”


Welch is being paid the same compensation that Mark Donaldson was earning, probated by however many months Welch serves in the position. There’s no additional funding necessary. He’s serving two positions on a single salary.


Speaking of the open time frame while searching for a new MPC director, Mayor Rogero said, “In part, we have that luxury because of Jeff Welch’s leadership and willingness to serve. He’s been a trusted and highly-respected director of the TPO for 29 years. The MPC is in good hands under Jeff while a careful, thorough search process is conducted.”