New community development director brings energy, experience
January 3, 2013
By Christina Corrales-Toy
The city’s new director of community development, Tim McHarg, spent the month of December settling into his new position and familiarizing himself with the Newcastle community.
McHarg joined the staff Dec. 3 after stints as the assistant planning director in Steamboat Springs, Colo., and Durango, Colo., and most recently, as the planning director in Bozeman, Mont.
McHarg is no stranger to the Northwest, having worked with the Walla Walla Housing Authority straight out of graduate school at Cornell University, where he earned a degree in city and regional planning. He also worked for a development consulting firm that was employed by several cities around the state, including Seattle and Federal Way.
After 12 years working in the Rockies, McHarg said he was ready for a new challenge and was intrigued by all that Newcastle had to offer.
“I wanted some change, professionally,” he said. “I think this is a good match for me in terms of Newcastle being obviously very interested in high-quality development outcomes for the community and also very focused on what I would call the community-based amenities, such as parks and trails.”
One thing that made the Newcastle position very attractive was the future development of the Mutual Materials site, McHarg said.
“I think it’s tremendous,” he said. “You know the scale of that project in a community this size is just an incredible project to work on.”
McHarg said he has a lot of experience working on large-scale redevelopment projects, helping to shape a project from the inception and then seeing it through construction in a multiphase, multiyear type of proposal.
“That’s the type of work that I really enjoy doing, and my career was taking me in a direction that I really didn’t get to do a lot of that,” he said.
Development of the Mutual Materials site is expected to be a critical component of the city’s future, and McHarg said he understands the importance it holds.
“The vision that I think the community has articulated for that site is just critically important on so many different levels to the future of this community, and trying to make the community as sustainable as possible,” he said.
Also important, McHarg said, is getting the community involved in the project’s development.
“I hope people really will participate in the process and get involved and engaged in what they would like to see there, so we can kind of collaborate with the developer,” he said.
Coming from Bozeman, Mont., where the city staff consisted of about 350 employees, has been a welcomed change, McHarg said.
“My planning department in Bozeman was essentially the same size as this whole city, and so coming to a small organization has just been great, and I’m really impressed with the quality of the people that work here,” he said.
Exemplary customer service and high efficiency are two things that are very important to McHarg, which is why City Manager Rob Wyman hired him.
“He understands development really well,” Wyman said. “He understands customer service, not only understands it, kind of lives and breathes it. He’s a problem solver. I mean all the things that I was looking for, he’s got it.”
McHarg said there are a lot of things he’d like to do within his department, mostly in the ministerial realm, to maximize efficiency.
“There is always room for improvement, and I think particularly where we are with the staffing level right now, having really gotten lean through the recession, I think it is a good time to try and make sure we’re as efficiently using our resources to deliver on that customer service experience as we can,” he said.
As he continues to get acquainted with the community, businesses and city staff, McHarg said he is excited to really hit the ground running in 2013, bringing a new energy to the city.
“I think having some new people here with some new ideas, and certainly a whole lot of energy, to be generating new ideas and trying to implement them and being a part of that team is really important,” he said.
The director of community development manages all functions of the Community Development Department, which includes the Building and Planning divisions.
The Building Division administers permit and code enforcement activities.
The Planning Division is responsible for administering the city’s Comprehensive Plan, zoning code, land use and development, and other growth management plans, and it processes new residential and commercial applicants.
What to know
New Community Development Director Tim McHarg is eager to answer questions, chat about community development issues or receive feedback from Newcastle residents. Contact him at email@example.com or 649-4444, ext. 112.