James Freas will be Charlottesville’s new director of Neighborhood Development Services, City Manager Chip Boyles announced Wednesday.
Freas, 43, most recently served as director of the Department of Community & Economic Development in the town of Natick, Massachusetts. Before that, he served as chief planner for long-range planning and acting director and later deputy director of the Department of Planning and Development for the city of Newton, Massachusetts.
“[Freas] has over 15 years of experience in city planning in Massachusetts and Virginia, where he has built teams to lead collaborative planning and implementation work,” Boyles said in a press release. “I am particularly pleased that [Freas] has worked directly with municipal leadership and community members in Massachusetts to advance issues of racial equity in zoning and planning. That experience will be very important in Charlottesville.”
Freas holds a bachelor’s in psychology from the University of Virginia, a master’s of community planning from the University of Rhode Island and a master’s of studies in environmental law from the Vermont Law School.
“I am excited to be returning to Virginia and eager to get started with the city,” Freas said in the release. “There are a number of important conversations happening right now around development and zoning and I look forward to engaging with the community.”
Freas will oversee a portfolio that includes the city’s planning and zoning departments. He will report to Deputy City Manager Sam Sanders starting Sept. 13.
Current NDS Director Alexander Ikefuna has held his post since 2015, but will become deputy director for zoning.
The demotion is a result of a 2020 reorganization effort by then-City Manager Tarron Richardson. Ikefuna’s salary will remain the same in his new position.
Missy Creasy, who was assistant director of the department, had her title changed to deputy director for planning.
On Nov. 4, the city announced the hire of Parag Agrawal as its new director of NDS at a salary of $150,000. Two weeks later, however, Agrawal backed out and took a job in Prince William County.
Freas’ salary will be $148,000.