Milan Nevajda will take over as South Portland’s new planning director on April 21. Courtesy / City of South Portland

SOUTH PORTLAND — South Portland’s new planning director, Milan Nevajda, is set to take the reins on April 21, as longtime Planning Director Charles “Tex” Haeuser is retiring after 30 years with the city.

City Manager Scott Morelli said Nevajda was one of 18 applicants for the position.

“He came out on top,” Morelli said.

Morelli said Nevajda was most recently the deputy director of planning for Sonoma County, California, but he is no stranger to Maine. Nevajda served as an analyst in 2013 for the MidCoast Economic Development District in Damariscotta, and he worked as the New Gloucester Town Planner from 2013-2014. New Gloucester Interim Town Manager Paul First said he enjoyed working with Nevajda.

“He’s creative, forward-thinking and very capable,” First said. “Not only does Milan have talent, but he’s a really nice person. I had an excellent experience working with him here in New Gloucester.”

From 2014 to 2017, Nevajda worked for Planning Decisions, a private consulting firm, with offices in South Portland. Morelli said the firm helped develop South Portland’s newest comprehensive plan back in 2012. While Nevajda didn’t work specifically on that project, Morelli said he did work through the firm on the city’s Mill Creek Master Plan in 2015.

Haeuser said he got to know Nevajda well on that project, and praised Nevajda’s creative, practical and friendly approach.

“He was very kind,” he said. “I think the city is very fortunate.”

Born in Croatia, Nevajda grew up in Toronto. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in history and economics from the University of Toronto and a Master of Urban Planning from McGill University in Montreal.

Nevajda said this week that his wife and much of her family live in Maine, which is what first drew him here. They had initially moved out to California to follow a job opportunity for his wife, and another job shift was already drawing them back to Maine. When the planner position was announced in South Portland, Nevajda said it was a perfect chance to return to familiar ground.

“I always loved that city and my experience working there,” he said.

Haeuser said Nevajda will likely want to get to work right away on the beginnings of South Portland’s new comprehensive plan. The update is due in 2022, so now is the perfect time to get started.

“We think that will be one of the bigger jobs,” Haeuser said.

There’s also the One Climate Future project. Described on the project’s website as “a joint climate action and adaptation plan,” the effort is a joint project between Portland and South Portland to address climate change. The project’s recommendations are due out this year, and Haeuser said Nevajda will have to figure out how to implement those recommendations in the city.

Haeuser announced his retirement earlier this year. This week, he said after 30 years with the city, it was time for him to move on.

“I felt it was time to give somebody else a chance,” he said.

He is not slowing down, however. He said he will be starting a new firm called Haeuser Consulting.

 

Sean Murphy: 780-9094

Email: [email protected]

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