Roy Dudark resigned as city planning director Tuesday with as much dignity as he displayed during his tenure at the department.
“I just need a change,” said Dudark, 57. “It’s gotten to the point where I just kind of feel like I need to relax a little.”
Dudark’s announcement came as a surprise and a disappointment to most.
“I was shocked when he told us,” said Vicki Turner, the Planning Department’s housing project manager. “I’m really going to miss his direction.”
“I’m very sorry to see him leave,” Mayor Darwin Hindman said. “I think he’s a progressive thinker, and I think that’s important for Columbia.”
“During his employment with the city, he has made significant contributions toward the planning and development of our city,” City Manager Ray Beck said in a written statement Wednesday, citing his work on transportation planning, a housing market analysis and neighborhood revitalization.
Although Dudark cited personal reasons for leaving, others suspect his decision reflects a growing frustration with city administration.
“I have known for some time that he was quite frustrated and not always real happy with some of the working situations,” said Jerry Wade, chairman of the Columbia Planning and Zoning Commission. “We’ve got lots and lots going on, and the Planning Department has been extremely challenged. It’s not clear that that environment is the best working environment for dealing with differences and conflicts that people within different departments may have.”
“He was just a genuinely nice, caring man who was also a very good professional,” Wade added. “I certainly hope that whatever negative conditions were part of his feeling that led to his resignation can be resolved and eliminated.”
Council had delayed Dudark's proposal
The news came just two days after a proposal for new street standards, Dudark’s brainchild, was thoroughly picked apart by the Columbia City Council on Monday. The proposal, which combined the efforts of the Planning Department and the Street Standards Planning Group, called for narrower city streets and wider sidewalks. The council decided to table the proposal, much to the disappointment of supporters. Dudark and his staff had worked on it for 15 months.
“I think you can draw inferences from that,” said Jeff Barrow, also of the Planning and Zoning Commission. He said the council and the city manager’s office sometimes thwarted Dudark in doing his job.
Dudark, however, said that the council’s actions Monday did not affect his decision. “It’s not related to any specific issue. I’m just kind of worn out and need to, you know, make a change.” Barrow said recent council decisions on the Philips tract and the Grindstone Plaza Wal-Mart were a “slap in the face” to Dudark and other city planners.
“The city hired a consummate professional at the height of his career,” Barrow said. Since then, he said, Dudark’s “wings have been clipped.” He said city administrators rely on old planning tools and have been unreceptive to Dudark’s progressive ideas.
“There is no public, citizen-based planning,” he said. “There is a lot of behind-closed-door planning.”
Dudark didn’t deny there has been some disagreement between departments. “Most of the people I come in contact with really do want to do what’s right,” he said. “You just sometimes have a different perspective on what that is.”
Dudark, who has 29 years of experience, has been Columbia’s planning director for 3 1/2 years. He will remain in his job until June 4.
Beck said the city will begin looking for a new director with qualities similar to Dudark’s as soon as possible. An interim director also will be appointed.