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Council members debate over new planning and zoning director

Updated: Jun. 9, 2021 at 10:11 PM CDT
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LAREDO, Tex. (KGNS) - The newly appointed planning and zoning director is causing quite the stir, not only on social media, but in council chambers as well.

A few members voiced their concerns with the new director’s qualifications at Monday night’s meeting.

Monday night City Manager Robert Eads selected Orlando Navarro as the new planning and zoning director.

Navarro is a Laredo native with 22 years of experience in the public and private sector.

Eads says he didn’t want to choose someone within the government pool rather someone with an outside perspective.

“He’s also a developer. Yes, by no means that wasn’t an accident that this is from the private sector. I think that is something that is a little different then what we’ve had in the past.”

Navarro graduated from TAMIU with a bachelor’s in business administration and a focus on marketing.

He’s served as a planning and zoning commission member for eight years and has held various positions like president of Laredo Builders Association.

While Eads believes Navarro is the right man for the job, council members Alyssa Cigarroa and Vanessa Perez didn’t agree.

“We continue to hire people that are not qualified and I don’t see why we are setting such a low standard,” said Cigarroa.

“Even just looking at his application, which I just barely got a little while ago before this meeting here, he says, ‘how did you hear about this position?’” said Perez. “He says, ‘friend,’ which skills do you have, he says, ‘personal computer, copy machine, calculator, typewriter, fax machine.’ Do you any computer software programs that are your proficient in? And he just puts ‘Microsoft Office.’ I mean, I’m sorry, but a planner should be able to use GIS, should be able to use more than just Microsoft Office. Like I have a marketing degree, and I don’t think I’m qualified to be a city planner.”

During the meeting, Cigarroa asked that the human resources director read out the minimum qualifications for the position.

“Bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university in urban planning, public administration, business administration, marketing or related field,” said Melina Bermudez. “Master’s degree is preferred, and at least seven years of experience in planning, public administration, land development, real estate planning or related fields including four years of supervisory experience.”

Cigarroa didn’t agree with these standards and felt they were too broad and not distinct enough.

However, other council members didn’t see it quite like that and felt that Navarro deserved a chance to prove himself.

“At the end of the day your recommendations are your appointments, right, and you are going to be held accountable to whatever it is that Mr. Navarro does or doesn’t do,” said Councilmember Alberto Torres. “He’s going to be your director, your planner, with our confirmation.”

The final decision was to move forward with appointing Navarro.

Since Navarro isn’t a certified planner, Eads is giving him 24 months to become certified.

According to the human resources director, the position was open for a month after Kirby Snideman resigned, but only two candidates submitted applications.

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