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New planning and building director to start Aug. 26

By MARY SCHLEY

Published: August 9, 2013

THE COMMUNITY planning director for the City of Ojai will arrive in Carmel later this month to become its new planning and building director — a position last filled in 2003. Rob Mullane was the top candidate among the nearly 80 who applied for the job during a rigorous recruiting effort, according to city administrator Jason Stilwell, who didn’t meet him until he was one of three remaining finalists several weeks ago.

After two panels met for a full day in Sunset Center to thin the group of six top contenders to three, Stilwell said members reported Mullane “really fit the community — he understood how to balance small-town charm and high standards for development with the demand for service that developers in this town expect.”

“We’re dealing with a lot of relatively complicated issues, but it’s complicated on an individual-parcel basis, and he has experience,” he told The Pine Cone Wednesday, after announcing Mullane’s hiring at the Aug. 6 city council meeting.

With a degree in geology focusing on the coastal zone, Mullane has been involved in planning since 1996, including positions with the City of Goleta, the County of Santa Barbara and the University of Hawaii. He has also been a contract planner for the City of Guadalupe.

Stilwell said Mullane’s work in coastal communities — where contending with the California Coastal Commission and battles over precious seaside properties and resources are the norm — and in the private sector made him a strong candidate for the Carmel job.

“He understands time is money, and he had some thoughts to keep the rigor of our planning standards but not run developers through the ringer,” he said. “You don’t want to spend a lot of money on the process if you do not have a reasonable expectation of being approved.”

Among his ideas is having the heads of the various departments that deal with planning issues, such as public works and forestry, involved in discussions about major projects at the start, “so applicants can understand the challenges,” Stilwell said. “It’s how to keep it efficient but recognize our standards.”


Rigorous process

The city hired Teri Black & Co., which had been paid $9,860.56 as of the end of May, to take on the recruitment effort that saw 79 people apply. The recruiter winnowed that number to six finalists, who were interviewed by two committees — a technical panel that included planning directors from other cities, a Monterey architect, a human resources director and the former city manager of Ventura — and a community panel comprising planning commission chairman Keith Paterson, historic resources board chair Erik Dyar, architect Brian Congleton, Carmel Chamber of Commerce CEO Monta Potter, former councilwoman and Carmel Residents Association board member Barbara Livingston and architect Eric Miller.

The first group scrutinized applicants to determine if they had the technical skills and could do the job, and the second judged whether they “had experience sufficient to meet our high expectations for planning and land use in this town,” Stilwell said.

After spending a day interviewing the candidates at Sunset Center in late June, the panels further narrowed the group to three top choices, and Stilwell met with each in subsequent interviews.

“It was clear why they had those top three, given the fit and experience,” he said. Stilwell was particularly impressed with Mullane’s specific and well organized answers to challenging questions, including how he felt the department of planning and building could effectively work with code enforcement.

“He outlined precisely how those programs could meet the expectations of the community and our code requirements,” Stilwell said. “He understood conceptually and had practical experience.”

Mullane will earn between $127,320 and $154,752 per year, according to the salary range approved by the city council.