Mayor Sandy Stimpson’s administration has eliminated two director positions as part of a larger transformation of the city’s planning and business development operations.

Colby Cooper, Stimpson’s chief of staff, confirmed Wednesday that the positions of urban development director and historic development director have been eliminated. Former Urban Development Director Laura Clarke is retiring after 34 years, Cooper said, while Devereaux Bemis, former historic development director, will become an Architectural Historian Survey II, a position he held with the city prior to his promotion to director.

Cooper said the changes are reflected in a draft organizational chart that has yet to be released. The plan to move some urban development functions, like planning and zoning, urban design and long-range planning, under the umbrella of a city planning department led by Dianne Irby, executive director of planning and development.

Historic development, previously a standalone entity within the city, will also now be under the umbrella of city planning, but Cart Blackwell will head up the division.

Other functions of urban development, like inspections, permitting and property maintenance, would fall under the umbrella of business services and report directly to Cooper in the mayor’s office.

Under the old system, Cooper said, opening a business might require visits to as many as five different offices within the city. The new plan will streamline the process to require businesses to have only have one point of contact. The process will become simpler, and more user friendly, he said.

“In Cincinnati, you go to one place and one person, who as the captain of your project is your point of contact,” Cooper said. “There’s no reason we can’t do that.”

Additionally, Cooper said the old system was paper-based, but the implementation of new software from Tyler Technologies will allow the city to create an online portal next year, where an owner can submit a project proposal.

The goal is to move as many of the interactions with business services department online as possible,Cooper said, which will make the experience will be less cumbersome for a business owner.

“Right now you have to submit at least seven sets of plans to the city,” he said. “With this idea, plans to go to a single touchpoint.”
The city wants to take on the Ritz-Carlton model for customer service when it comes to helping people do business in the city, Cooper said.

“If you look at the Ritz-Carlton model and creed, it’s where we need to be,” he said. “We want Mobile to be a city that people want to do more business in because it was so easy.”

The core of the new plan will include: talking to employees, engaging with employees in the field and talking to stakeholders, Cooper said.