Greenville names new city planning director

Former Florence planner is pro-business, anti-red tape

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Credit: Aerial shots of the site provided by Brian Scott of Upstate Aerial LLC.

Greenville finally has a new planning director after months of vacancy. His name Jay Graham and he’s anti-bureaucratic and red tape. In fact, Graham believes government should be an active part of the planning and construction process and not an independent, outside deterrent.

“Regulation is a necessary part of any construction project, but we’re here to serve,” Graham said. “Don’t dictate, team and collaborate. It forces you out of your comfort zone. If you listen and have open lines of communication, you can meld that into a solution that works for everyone. That should not be interpreted as make everybody happy.”

Over the course of his career, Graham has been on both sides. For four years, he was planning and building director in Florence County. Prior to that, he worked in Wilmington, N.C. as the head of that city’s building, code and zoning program. But before entering public service, he worked in the construction industry and as a licensed architect.

Graham begins on Jan. 17.

Greenville’s planning and development manager position has been open since July when Michael Kerski left to become the planning director in Shakopee, Minn., a city southwest of Minneapolis.

Graham said the Greenville job presented the rare combination of a great professional opportunity and a chance to be closer to his family. Graham was born in Winston-Salem, N.C. and has lived in across the Southeast and in Europe. Graham’s father, sister and three grown children all live in South Carolina and western North Carolina. “It’s not home, but it’s where my family lives,” he said.

The incoming city planner said Greenville has been able to do what a lot of cities haven’t — transform from a vision into a reality. Continuing to advance that vision is a priority, he said.

“Greenville has done a lot of good things. I think the challenge is to stay on top of the strengths it already has going. A lot of times, you get the vision started but it’s difficult to keep it going,” he said. “It’s like a fire. If it’s not tended and nurtured, it will go out.”

Graham began his career digging ditches and tying foundation rebar. He then joined a five-man framing crew and framed new homes on the Gulf Coast of Florida before working in commercial construction as a trim carpenter and project superintendent. Graham then earned a degree in architecture. He began working in the public sector in the 1980s.

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