New planning director sees ‘exciting’ future

Miami County employee brings range of experience

The city has tapped a planner who has overseen growth in areas ranging from Phoenix to Miami County to serve as its new director of planning and development services.

Scott McCullough, who currently oversees the planning department for Miami County south of Kansas City, was announced as the city and county’s choice for the new department, which will oversee planning efforts for the city and county and be in charge of building permits and inspection services for the city.

“The community’s progressive nature of planning is what really drew me,” McCullough said. “What the city’s looking at with traditional neighborhood design and smart growth is exciting. Everybody just seems to be very progressive, in my mind, compared to other Midwestern communities.”

McCullough has worked in communities with significant growth issues. Although he has been in the mainly rural area of Miami County since 2003, he worked as a planner for the Johnson County Planning Department from 2001 to 2003, and was a manager in the Maricopa County Planning Department, which is the home county for Phoenix. While there from 1998 to 2001, he served as acting director of the 80-person department for a four-month period in 2000.

“That was a very fast-paced environment,” McCullough said of the rapidly growing Phoenix area.

McCullough, 36, moved back to Kansas in 2001 to be closer to family. He’s originally from St. Louis, and his wife is from Nebraska. Kansas City was roughly the halfway point, he said.

City Manager David Corliss said he liked McCullough’s background, and thought he understood that his job was to help projects get done in the community.

“I believe he understands his role is to both ensure consistent application of the community’s laws, but also to facilitate quality development,” Corliss said.

McCullough also was the person Douglas County leaders wanted. The department is jointly funded by the city and county, although Corliss is responsible for filling the director’s position.

County Administrator Craig Weinaug, who participated in the hiring process, said he liked that McCullough brought a mix of rural and urban experience to the job.

“He’s familiar with county government, he understands the situation in Kansas and he understands what it is like to be in a community where the issue of growth sometimes has been an issue,” Weinaug said.

McCullough will serve as the first director of the Planning and Development Services Department. Previously the Planning Department and the Neighborhood Resources Department were separate.

City commissioners last year, though, agreed to merge the two departments to produce a “one-stop shop” for developers and residents needing the services of planners and building inspectors.

In his current position, McCullough oversees a similarly merged department. He also helped create a “one-stop shop” in his job at Maricopa County.

He thinks the new department in Lawrence could decrease the time it takes for a project to go through the planning and inspection process.

In Lawrence, McCullough will oversee a department of about 40 people with a budget of approximately $1 million, Corliss said. McCullough will draw an annual salary of $100,000, Corliss said, and will start his new job July 30.

McCullough replaces Linda Finger, who resigned under pressure in late 2005 amid concerns the city wasn’t adequately planning for growth. She has since been hired as the county’s planning resource official.