By Kevin Kelley
Mayor Dennis Clough went beyond the borders of the Buckeye State in selecting a successor to retired Planning and Economic Development Director Bob Parry.
Jim Bedell, currently the planning and construction services manager for Bay City, Mich., was unanimously confirmed by City Council Thursday to lead the department that reviews development plans and determines compliance with zoning codes.
“I have been training for half of my career to work in a city like Westlake,” Bedell told West Life in a phone interview Friday.
Bedell, 44, learned of the Westlake position from the website of the Ohio Chapter of the American Planning Association. The Detroit-area native said he had not heard of Westlake before the job posting.
However, Bedell said he is eager to begin working for Westlake. He described the city as progressive in regard to planning and focused on quality design.
Bedell said he was especially impressed by Crocker Park, which he called one of the finest examples of the planning movement known as “New Urbanism.” A response to the urban sprawl of the late 20th century, New Urbanism favors compact, walkable, mixed-use communities.
Bedell noted that he is a charter member of the Michigan chapter of the Congress for New Urbanism.
With a population of about 35,000, Bay City is located near the base of Saginaw Bay on Lake Huron. During his time as an official with Bay City, Bedell said he has streamlined administrative processes and built a culture of customer service.
Bedell said he sees municipal planning as an open process that should be open to public input.
Not surprisingly, Bedell said the mayor informed him his top priorities would be the next phase of development at Crocker Park, which includes construction of the American Greetings headquarters building.
Beyond that, Bedell said he wants to get to know the community and the goals held by City Council and the Planning Commission.
“Probably the biggest mistake I can do is to think I know best and try to change everything,” Bedell said.
Bedell has a Bachelor of Arts degree in landscape architecture from Michigan State University and a Master’s of Science degree in public administration from Central Michigan University. He said his landscape architecture background, along with five years of transportation planning early in his career, give him a well rounded background for a planner.
“I’m able to take a look at the big picture when discussing issues,” Bedell said.
Bedell will be moving to Westlake with his wife, Dawn, and their 13-year-old daughter.
Bedell, who begins his duties June 17, said he has already met with Parry, his predecessor, who retired after 26 years with the city.
Clough said he was impressed with Bedell’s experience and performance in the job interview.
“He was very enthusiastic and very positive about coming to Westlake,” the mayor said, adding that Bay City and Westlake are similar in size and population.
Clough said he received more than 20 applications for the job, including from Assistant Planning and Economic Development Director Will Krause. The mayor said 11 candidates were interviewed for the post.