Charlottesville has hired Parag Agrawal as its new director of Neighborhood Development Services.
The city announced the hire and held a virtual press conference with Agrawal on Wednesday. His first day is Nov. 30.
His salary will be $150,000.
“Parag is an experienced development professional that has a breadth of experience that is very needed in the Neighborhood Development department.” said Interim City Manager John Blair. “It takes a diverse skill set to run such a department.”
The department oversees city planning, building inspections and property maintenance. It also includes the city engineer and manages the affordable housing program.
The director advises the City Council and staff on land-use issues and is ultimately responsible for the Planning Commission, the Board of Architectural Review and other advisory groups.
Agrawal, who was chosen from a field of 25 candidates, has 18 years of experience in planning and development. Since 2018, he has been the community development director of Milton, Georgia, an Atlanta suburb with a population of about 40,000.
In his role with Milton, Agrawal administered daily operations in planning, zoning, building services, land development, code enforcement and land conservation.
Charlottesville and Milton have more in common than similar population sizes, Agrawal said. He highlighted a focus on multimodal transportation, sustainability and both cities are updating their Comprehensive Plan.
Agrawal is a native of Roorkee, India, which he called a “small town in Indian standards.” It is north of New Delhi near the Himalaya Mountains and home to the Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee.
Agrawal said growing up around engineers and architects inspired him to pursue his career path. He said being an immigrant will also help him connect with harder to reach community members.
“We want to involve a larger cross section of our community members in the decision-making process,” he said. “I can bring knowledge as one issue, but as an immigrant I can relate to the various issues the immigrant population deals with in any city, not just in Charlottesville.”
Prior to working in Georgia, Agrawal directed statewide planning for three years in Rhode Island, was planning director of Bridgeport, Connecticut, and held planning and preservation positions in Anne Arundel County, Maryland, DeKalb County, Georgia, and Columbus, Ohio.
In Rhode Island, he authored 16 planning guidance handbooks to help municipalities craft comprehensive plans, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
He earned a bachelor’s degree in architecture from Aligarh University in India and a master’s in city and regional planning from the Ohio State University.
Deputy City Manager Paul Oberdorfer said Agrawal’s background in architecture and historic preservation are important for the city.
“I think he’s going to bring a different perspective to the way our built environment looks over time,” he said.
Agrawal plans to meet with various area stakeholders to determine what issues are facing sectors of the community. He wants to develop “strategic partnerships” with government and private stakeholders to encourage economic development and increase sustainability and affordability.
Agrawal said transportation, sustainability and affordability are regional issues requiring cooperation between private stakeholders, the city, Albemarle County and the University of Virginia.
“We can always work more closely with the University of Virginia, the county, the state at becoming a more sustainable city,” he said.
On economic development, Agrawal said neighborhood revitalization is key and residents must benefit through job opportunities and more affordability.
Agrawal will take over for Alex Ikefuna, who was moved to a lesser role in February when former City Manager Tarron Richardson reorganized the department.
Ikefuna has held his post since 2015, but will become deputy director for zoning when Agrawal starts. His salary as director is $139,526 and will remain the same in his new position.
Missy Creasy, who was assistant director of the department, had her title change to deputy director for planning.
Agrawal is the city’s second recent hire of a department head with an immigrant background. Hezedean Smith, a Jamaican immigrant, will start as fire chief on Dec. 1.