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Shelbyville hires new planning director

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Waleed Albakry has visited the middle Tennessee area for 14 years. It’s a long way from Canada, where he’s lived since 2004 and an even longer way from Alexandria, Egypt, where he was born.  

And with his older brother, Mohammed Albakry Ph.D., not too far away—working as a professor of English and applied linguistics at Middle Tennessee State University—Albakry says this area has always felt like home.  

It’s also an area in constant movement and development, which is something Albakry looks to utilize as Shelbyville’s Planning and Community Development Director, a position he began last Tuesday. 

Previously, Kevin Chastine, of Griggs and Maloney, served as the interim planning director, working closely with Shelbyville City Manager Joshua Ray, whose role is to provide support and direction to department heads based on the policy and vision set by Shelbyville City Council.  

Working as a team with Ray, Albakry’s role will be to focus on short-term and long-term planning.  

“The short-term includes the day-to-day operations of building development, residential development, planning, and community support. The long-term processes include determine best uses for different parts of the city, updating ordinances, and working with community partners on enrichments projects,” Ray said. The City stated that Albakry’s annual salary will be $75,000.  

When a city is well laid out, Albakry said, it makes residents and visitors more social. And when they’re more social, there’s more economic development and the ability to thrive.  

Previously serving as senior planner for the city of Kingston in Ontario, Canada, Albakry said he wants to implement “new visions” for Shelbyville, which includes smart growth. This utilizes the space and buildings Shelbyville already has, saving both land and money.  

This, in addition to making the city more pedestrian friendly, adding bike lanes and more landscaping, and incorporating the many empty buildings, will also be in the dialogue to make Shelbyville more appealing for new and lifelong residents.  

But most importantly, Albakry emphasized, Shelbyville needs to maintain its identity. It does not need to become another Nashville—which is unlikely in this lifetime, according to Albakry—but it does need to meet the demands of the future and needs of the people moving here.  

“What it really boils down to is having this kind of building into your history, preserving your identity—preserving your green space, for example—and having mixed uses. You don’t have to have everything isolated,” Albakry said.  

This has been brought up before as Ray, Chamber CEO Lacey Deeds, and Celebration CEO Warren Wells—all of whom are new in their leadership positions— said they look to utilize facilities, like the Celebration grounds, the whiskey distilleries, and the historic downtown,year-round.  

Albakry said he also plans to maintain the identity of Shelbyville through collaboration and communication with the City and community.  

“First, we have to have personal connections, so know each other. And have a system to get everyone at the table for every major application, so that it’s all like a team effort. Once we build this, it’s great for the community and for us because it can streamline work. And also, once we have this trust, it’s easier to express opinions,” Albakry said.  

In the upcoming months, he said he’s looking forward to hearing people’s ideas that may have otherwise not been heard before, all while being transparent with the community about the city’s plans. 

For now, as he settles in, Albakry said he plans to observe and get to know people here in the community as well as organize the city’s planning documents into a digital catalogue.  

City manager Ray said, “Waleed is intelligent, experienced, and has an energy about him that resonates with who he is. These traits will allow him to have a positive impact on our team and our Shelbyville.” 

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