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New Windsor planning chief impresses

By CLARK MASON
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Windsor’s interim community development director has been on the job only two weeks, but he’s already impressed his bosses at Town Hall.

His eye-catching resume didn’t dampened expectations either.

A Fulbright scholar with a master’s degree from Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, Ned Thomas appears to have stepped smoothly into his new role as chief of the planning department.

“We were fortunate to find him,” said City Manager Linda Kelly.

“He’s pretty sharp,” said Councilman Steve Allen. “He really impressed with how quickly he came up to speed.”

Ned Thomas.

Ned Thomas.

Thomas, 48, had to quickly familiarize himself with Bell Village, one of the biggest mixed-use projects proposed in Windsor’s history.

More than five years in the making, the 387 residential units and shopping center came up for final approval last week. But council members were wrestling with how to keep the project moving forward without having to go back to the planning commission for more hearings on important design and building details.

Council members wanted to meet the deadline for Oliver’s Market to be included.

Despite his newness, Thomas persuaded them he would be able to handle all the details with input from individual council members and planning commissioners and also act as a mediator with the developer if need be.

“He figured out ways to appease everybody that were logical and made sense,” said Mayor Bruce Okrepkie.

Thomas replaced Jim Bergman, who left in December on relatively sudden notice to take a job as the County of San Luis Obispo’s director of planning and building.

Thomas was hired through a temporary agency that specializes in placing seasoned government professionals. Windsor pays the agency, MuniTemps, $107.50 per hour for his services. He does not receive benefits or retirement contributions from the town.

That could change if Thomas is given the position permanently, something he said he is open to if the job is offered.

“I couldn’t be happier to be here. I grew up in a smaller community. It feels a lot like home to me,” Thomas said in an interview.

Until September, he served for six months as Hayward’s interim planning manager. For 10 years prior to that, he lived in the Las Vegas area, working as principal planner for Henderson, Nev., and as a planner and urban designer for the City of North Las Vegas.

He also was a planning commissioner in North Las Vegas and worked as a planning and design consultant on large-scale residential and commercial projects.

Raised in a small farming town in Idaho, Thomas first went to Japan as a missionary for the Church of Latter Day Saints before attending Brigham Young University.

He is fluent in Japanese, working as a research assistant in a Japanese government trade office in New York City and also representing a Japanese chemical company.

As a Fulbright scholar in Japan, Thomas did research on local and regional planning and development issues in the City of Fukuoaka.

Thomas and his wife, a former securities analyst, live in Castro Valley with their four children, ages 7 through 12.

Thomas said he has always had an interest in the North Coast. His parents lived in Santa Rosa and Ukiah, and his father was a grocer in Willits for a time.

Windsor is a recently incorporated community, but Thomas said it has a sense of place and balance with light industry, a core downtown commercial area and a mix of residential.

Town Green Village has won awards for good reason, he said, brushing aside early criticism that it was Disney-like and not organic.

“Like a good wine it needs a little time and will only get better,” he said.

(You can reach Staff Writer Clark Mason at 521-5214 or clark.mason@pressdemocrat.com.)





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