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Ole Miss Alumna Judy Daniel Named Oxford City Planning Director

Oxford has a brand new City Planner (Planning Director), 1974 Ole Miss alumnae Judy Daniel and – right out of the gate – she has her priorities straight and is loaded with a veritable truckload of experience.

Actually, Ms. Daniel had them straight before she accepted her new position in our city’s government: Family; granddaughter Lucy; Oxford; more family; Ole Miss and… family.

Oxford Planning Director Judy Daniel (left) and granddaughter Lucy. Photo courtesy of Judy Daniel
Oxford Planning Director Judy Daniel (left) and granddaughter Lucy.
Photo courtesy of Judy Daniel

Daniel recently retired and left Asheville, North Carolina (population 80,000) where she served as planning director in the mountainous western region of the state.

In 2014, Daniel decided to pack it in and head south so that she could be closer to her aging mother and the rest of her family – only to become heavily involved with Oxford’s Vision 2037 Comprehensive Plan… just because.

One thing led to another and, fortunately (for everyone concerned), our government officials recognized a great “thing” when they saw it and offered her the position of Planning Director of the Velvet Ditch (Oxford) and the rest is proverbial history.

When emailed a list of questions so that I could wrap my head around a feature to introduce Ms. Daniel to Oxford and, particularly, the followers of HottyToddy.com; I was sent the literary masterpiece below with answers so clear and eloquent that it would have been a sin for me to dissect and attempt a re-write. Ms. Daniels undergraduate work at Ole Miss was in English, after all.

The only alternative; the following Q and A-type article featuring Ms. Daniel, as I’m happy to step back and let her handle the bio and introduction.

I, in this situation, am happy to zip it and simply be the typist.

HT.com: Where are you from and how did you make your way to Oxford?

JD: I worked in North Carolina for six years, as Planning Director in Asheville, a fast growing and popular city of around 80,000 in the western mountains. Before that I was with the Planning Commission in Montgomery County, MD (an urban suburb of Washington, DC) for 14 years (I had several titles). In the early 1990s, I was a planning consultant on Saipan, an island in the Pacific, and in the late 1980s, I was Planning Director in Williamson County, Tenn. (Franklin). But, my family is from Mississippi (Momma from Tupelo, Daddy from Water Valley) and I graduated from Clarksdale High School. I later went to Ole Miss and then to graduate school at the University of Memphis (back when it was Memphis State).

HT.com: How were you familiar with Oxford and Lafayette County and how did you hear of the open city planner position?

JD: As stated above, I have been coming to Oxford off and on since I was about 6-years-old… (I think my first football game was in 1964 – back when tailgating meant putting down the rear gate of a station wagon and putting a quilt on it for our platters of fried chicken). My parents met at Ole Miss, and later retired back to Oxford in the early 1990s. My father, Knox Jackson, was actually on the Oxford Planning Commission in the mid-90s. He would sometimes talk to me about new developments being considered.

I retired from Asheville in May 2014 and moved to Oxford – primarily to be closer to my mother, who was having health problems- and my son and his family. I eventually began to volunteer for various local efforts as I like being involved in my community. I started participating in the Vision 2037 Comprehensive Plan effort last summer. Later, I began doing some consulting work for the city (Oxford) related to that plan (working with Orion Consulting). When the Planning Director position came open, I was asked if I would be interested in it, given my experience and long connection with the city. I was honored to be considered for such an important role, at such an important time, for a city that is so dear to my heart.

HT.com: How many years have you been in city government? What are your qualifications/education?

JD: My first position out of graduate school was in 1985, so about 30 years. That has been a combination of consulting, real estate development and local government (but primarily government).

I have a BA in English from Ole Miss (1974), an MA in History and an MCRP (City and Regional Planning) from Memphis. I have spent most of my career in communities facing lots of change very quickly, who are searching for the right tools for managing growth and maintaining their sense of place and character.

HT.com: Do you now reside in Oxford?

JD: Yes, I moved to Oxford in 2014.

HT.com: Would you like to mention any family members?

JD: I am not currently married and both my parents have now died; but my son and his family live in Brandon – and that includes the light of my life, my 3-year-old granddaughter, Lucy. I also have an aunt and cousins in Oxford.

Judy Daniel considers her 3-year-old granddaughter, Lucy, the light of her life. Photo by Judy Daniel
Judy Daniel considers her 3-year-old granddaughter, Lucy, the light of her life.
Photo by Judy Daniel

HT.com: Briefly, can you give us your initial thoughts of Oxford; and more specifically, your early take on our leaders and the current direction of our city?

JD: Oxford is blessed to have leaders who understand the need for new tools to manage growth in a way that preserves what is best about the city.

HT.com: Has everyone embraced you as you’ve eased into the position?

JD: I have only been in the position for a few days and so far everyone has been very kind and helpful. I have an advantage in that I am not new to the city or state, so I am aware of the issues.

HT.com: What are your personal interests (outside of your new position)?

JD: Aside from time with Miss Lucy, I am pretty eclectic so I am happy to be in a community that offers varied options for literary and intellectual exercise, hiking and bicycling, music, water sports, exploratory eating and sipping and art. I also like to get to Memphis fairly often where I have friends and to visit the museums and parks.

HT.com: Any other thoughts you’d like HottyToddy.com to pass along?

JD: We’ll be back to the process of getting the Vision 2037 Plan adopted within a month or so (after I get a bit more situated) and then the new land use regulations that will follow. I think it is important for those interested in future land use in Oxford to become familiar with the 2037 Plan (which indicates how the City wants to grow in the future), and the regulations (which establish the new tools that will allow the city to grow the way it wishes).

Old style zoning tools just set parameters for placement of buildings – they do not create great places. The goal of the Vision 2037 Plan is to establish a road map to ensure that Oxford will continue to be a great place while accommodating growth – not just a lovely Square and University surrounded by strip shopping, student housing and weekend condos jumbled together along overcrowded roads feeding off the bypasses – with attractive but distant subdivisions. Great places have strong mixed-use cores, attractive mixed-use corridors, and attractive mixed-density neighborhoods that are within walking distance from those cores and corridors. They offer many options for living, playing, dining and shopping that do not require the constant use of automobiles.

I look forward to my part in this effort to secure the future of Oxford as a great place for many generations to come – including Miss Lucy.

HOTTY TODDY Ms. Daniel and good luck from all of us at HottyToddy.com!

Jeff McVay is a staff writer and graphic designer for Hottytoddy.com. He can be reached at jeff.mcvay@hottytoddy.com

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