In a move to streamline management and provide better customer service, the city of Fort Smith has split the Department of Development Services into two departments.
The move was made as City Administrator Carl Geffken worked to fill the department head position for development services left when Wally Bailey, who had worked under six Fort Smith city administrators, retired from the position in June to become Van Buren’s director of planning.
The old department included four offices: Planning and zoning, building safety, community development and neighborhood services. The reorganization will divide things the Department of Development Services will include planning and zoning and community development, while the new Department of Building Services will include building safety and neighborhood services, Geffken said in a media release.
“This one department, the old Development Services, did everything from managing land-use policies to issuing building permits to overseeing CDBG grants to writing citations for code violations,” said Geffken said, noting it was too much responsibility for one office.
By dividing the offices, Geffken was able to promote from within the city to fill positions to head each unit. Maggie Rice was promoted to director of the new Department of Development Services and Jimmie Deer to director of the new Department of Building Services.
“Both Maggie and Jimmie have devoted their careers to Fort Smith,” Geffken said. “They’re recognized as authorities and leaders in their fields and share a passion for serving the people of our city with honesty, integrity, and fairness. These promotions recognize their dedication and outstanding performance, and we look forward to supporting them in their new management roles.”
Rice has been a senior planner in Development Services for more than 12 years. She has a bachelor’s degree in public administration and a master’s degree in of public administration from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville.
Deer is being promoted from building official. He has been with the city for more than 38 years. Prior becoming a building official, he was building inspector for 10 years. Deer is certified by the Arkansas Department of Health as a plumbing inspector and mechanical inspector. He is recognized by the International Code Council (ICC) as a certified building official, building code official, building inspector and building plans examiner.
The two new departments should allow the city to better serve builders, contractors and those opening a business in Fort Smith, Geffken said.
“Our main goal, nothing is really going to change, we are going to keep doing what we do,” Deer said. “We hear a lot of times that it’s hard to start a small business and to get building permits. We are going to try to keep getting the word out that it’s not just building safety and planning and zoning. There are a lot of departments involved … And we are going to do our best to make it easy (for those doing business with the city.”
Geffken said Brenda Andrews, who served as acting director of Development Services since Bailey’s retirement in June, preferred to remain a senior planner rather than move into a department head position.