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The City of Beaufort is situated within the richly historic and environmentally sensitive region known as “The Lowcountry.”  The leadership of MRB Group’s SmarterLocalGov division has an intimate history with the region:  Matt Horn and Heather Simmons Jones each served significant roles there in the past as Assistant City Manager for the City and Economic Development Director for the County, respectively. 

When the City of Beaufort had a vacancy at the head of one of its most critical positions, Community Development Director, MRB Group assisted with development of a strategy to not only find the best new candidate, but also to help optimize the department’s structure with an assessment performed while providing interim leadership.

The MRB Group team conducted important interviews with city stakeholders, such as elected officials and chairpersons of the various review boards.  Additionally, stakeholders at-large, such as major developers, the Historic Beaufort Foundation, Coastal Conservation League, and Open Land Trust were interviewed to gain a critical “outside” perspective.  The MRB Group team then detailed the needs of the department and required personnel, as well as necessary skillsets for each position.  The team further assessed the need for new software or other technology that would enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of each position.  

Through this assessment it became clear that increased effectiveness could be achieved through supporting transparency, communication, and consistency.  These key items needed to be enhanced if the interim leadership and executive search, as well as the role of the new Director, were to be successful.  

Concurrent with the departmental assessment, MRB Group provided interim leadership, serving as the Director to ensure that the day-to-day operations and ongoing projects of the department were not significantly interrupted. 

The City of Beaufort is a unique and progressive environment for urban planning, from the growth boundaries set in the Northern Beaufort County Regional Plan to its award-winning Form Based Code, and its historic district that is over 300 years old.  All of these intricate elements contribute to the ornate tapestry that is urban planning in Beaufort.  During the time of interim services, Beaufort was inundated with development projects, with over 1,000 multi-family units approved and another 1,000 in the review process, a proposed $50 million commercial shopping center, along with numerous commercial and single-family subdivisions requiring City approval.  Reinforcing the City’s vision and goals was a challenge welcomed by MRB Group, supported by its team members’ robust collective experience in local government leadership.

MRB Group also assisted the City in conducting a nationwide search for a Director with the necessary skills and experience to be effective in leading the City’s development effort.  At the time of the initial posting, there were over 200 similar director-level jobs advertised by the American Planning Association.  Navigating this highly competitive job market, MRB Group sorted through dozens of applicants before recommending three finalists for the role. After several rounds of interviews and in-depth research into the references and experience of the finalists, one candidate shone through and was selected by the City to become the new Director. 

MRB Group’s work with the City was both rewarding and inspirational for team members, whose understanding of the fabric and vision of the community, as well as the critical importance of effective development, provided focus on key objectives.  Their expertise helped the City of Beaufort secure a dynamic Director who will rise to the challenge and successfully lead the Community Development Department into the future.