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A planner's title in a one person department

Dan

Dear Leader
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17,841
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59
Well, I'm still duking it out with the town manager regarding my role here ... whether I'm the planner, or just an assistant. Sigh.

The newest battle is regarding my title. I call myself the "Planning Director." He wants me to stop using that, and instead call myself the "Town Planner," saying such a title is "appropriate for a one-man shop." My argument ... well, we have the "Finance Director" who is the only person doing the books, and a title of "Town Planner" alone implies that I am not the lead staff member regarding land use issues in the town. When I want to move on, the title will hold me back, because it doesn't reflect what is an increase in my responsibility from being some "Planner II" at my previous job.

So, in other one-person planning departments, is the planner normally the "Planning Director," or are they usually just the "Planner"?
 

NHPlanner

Forums Administrator & Gallery Moderator
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My town was a one person shop before I arrived.

The title has been "Director of Planning & Economic Development."

My position, newly created 2+ years ago is Town Planner.
 

Chet

Cyburbian Emeritus
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10,624
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34
I went through that at my last job, where I was titled "Land Use Planner" but in reality did everything! Eventually new blodd came to the manager's office and he officially changed the title to "Director of Planning and Community Development".

Let the blood flow, Dan-o!
 

El Feo

Cyburbian
Messages
674
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19
It may be a "regional thing"

Here in Massachusetts, many of the mid-sized towns have multi-person staffs, with the lead planner holding the title of "Town Planner." My wife works on a two person staff in just such a place, where her title is "Assistant Town Planner."

I can appreciate your frustration, but I'm not sure I would worry too much about the title holding me back if I were you, either. I'm certain that your increased responsibility would be more than reflected in the description of duties included on your resume, and frankly, can't you use the preferred title of your choice on that personal document? It wouldn't change the substance of what you do and it would be one of the more appropriate pieces of resume, er, "puffery" I could think of...

On the flip side, what does your town manager care what you want to call yourself, as long as it relates to your actual job (just in case you were thinking of pitching to be called "Archbishop of Florida.")? This seems like a pretty petty line for the TM to draw in the sand, and it seems logical that you would want your title to be consistent with other department managers.

I wish you the best of luck in this battle and hope you win the title that you want.
 

nerudite

Cyburbian
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6,544
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The closest I've come to your position Dan is when I worked in Oak Harbor, WA. I was the second person hired in the Department. My boss was the Planning Director. Before I came on the scene, he was the only person in the Department, and he still held that same title.

Conversely, the "City Engineer" was head of the Engineering Department and was not a "director". Go figure!

But if there are other departments in your City that are one man shows and they have the title of "director", I would think that your situation would be similar.
 

Cardinal

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10,080
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When I did a stint as the sole caretaker of an economic development group, the official title was "Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer." I put "Executive Director" on my business card. In reality, the title doesn't mean too much. After it, on my resume, I write "...executive director of a non-profit economic development agency, responsible for...." What you do means more than what they call you. At the same time, it seems a waste of the town manager's time to be concerned with what title you may want to use.
 

mike gurnee

Cyburbian
Messages
3,066
Points
30
I got my title changed in rural NC from Planning Director to Community Services Director. While it is JUST a title, if it really bothers you, why not get your planning commission to recommend a change to the boss? Do a FL small town survey, every one wants to be equal footing with his peers.
 
Messages
5,353
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31
What's in a name?

Shakespeare wrote: "A rose by any other name would smell just as sweet...."

While I see your point Dan, I don't think it really matters in the long run. Easiest solution is to continue to refer to yourself as the Planning Director outside of the area, particularly on your resume, and as Town Planner when in the Town Manager's presence. It could be worse, like "Fries Boy." :)
 

Bullwinkle

Cyburbian
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176
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7
I was the Town Planner in the one-man department at my last job. It didn't stop me from being hired as the Community Development Director in the one-man (at the time) department here.

I have since embarked on an ambitious empire building program and have two employees and primary supervisory authority over our contract city engineering firm. Insert evil laugh here.
 

kms

Cyburbian
Messages
5,905
Points
31
I hope you get the title Planning Director; it would be in line with the other positions there. It is not like you are directing staff, but you are guiding/directing development issues, right?

If you get stuck with Town Planner, be careful using a different title on resumes; what if a potential employer checked with the manager, and he replied that the town does not have a Planning Director? The interviewer might think that you mispresented your qualifications.
 

Joe Iliff

Reformed City Planner
Messages
1,441
Points
29
Deceptive Titles

I've been there, Dan. I was the City Planner for a small town, but had the responsibilities of a Planning Director. In fact, I had even more. The city didn't have a City Manager and the Mayor was only a part time position, so I kinda did anything the Clerk/Treasurer and Superintendent of Public Works didn't, some things a City Manager would probably do.

I wouldn't worry too much about it, though. An employer who's only paying attention to your title and not your responsibilities or accomplishments should give you doubts anyways.

I've seen places where the city's top planner was "Assistant City Manager for Planning and Development", but there were other ACM's for Public Safety and Public Works. This may be a case of title inflation (rather than deflation), making each ACM seem to be the city's #2.

It would be interesting to collect a list of all the titles and names that planners and planning departments use across the country, or in other areas. I think we'd see a variety of titles (Planner I - Planner V, Senior Planner, Chief Planner, Director of Planning, Associate Planner, Assistant Planner) and department names (Planning, Zoning, Development Services, Community Development, Building Services, Community Services, Economic Development, and any combination thereof).

My city even played with whether Planning was a Division of the Department of Development Services, or a Department in the Division of Development Services.

Ultimately, you have to go beyond these to understand what some one or some department does or how well they do it.
 

Jeff

Cyburbian
Messages
4,161
Points
27
In this area the only one-man planning departments are generally the Planning Consultant whom is hired by the municipality on an as needed basis. Some of the better off municipalities have a full-time planner. In both instances they are normally referred to as the "Planner" or "Township Planner" or something to that effect. The only "Planning Directors" I know of are the ones who run the county planning commissions.
 

giff57

Corn Burning Fool
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Re: Pladministrator

peter lowitt said:
Or your suit.....
I have a pic of me in a plad suit, from the 70's, when polyester was king.
 

giff57

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Re: Re: Re: Pladministrator

nerudite said:


Cool... when is show and tell? :)
I was thinking that someone would ask that..... It would be good for a laugh or two.
 

Richard Carson

Cyburbian
Messages
32
Points
2
In recent years planning organizations have changed. There used to be separate planning, building and engineering departments and each had a director. Today these development reviews are being merged intoa single Community Development Department with on director, the Community Development Director. The other have become division managers. So the person who was once a planning director may now be a planning manager. You see similar titles in consultant organizations depending on how they are organized or specialized.
 
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