Clarke County planning administrator Chuck Johnston has, arguably, had the largest of any hand over the last twenty years in shaping what Clarke County will look like for generations to come. Johnston, who friends lovingly refer to as a “planning geek”, has used his exceptional professional skills and land use acumen, often while under withering fire from citizens, Board of Supervisors and Planning Commissioners over pet-projects and issues, to ensure that protectionists, developers and everyone else in between adhere to the County’s planning regimen, much of which Johnston personally authored.
As Clarke losses its senior planning official to Calvert County, Maryland, CDN offers Clarke County Planning Administrator Chuck Johnston in his own words:
CDN: Where are you going from here?
Johnston: Calvert County, Maryland
CDN: Describe your new position
Johnston: Calvert County Planning Director
CDN: Why did you decide to take a new position?
Johnston: Calvert County has 90,000 people in 220 sq miles (compared to Clarke’s15,000 people in 175 sq miles) so it has more diverse challenges. Like Clarke, it is committed to rural preservation with 25,000 acres in open-space easement, but Calvert reduced its rural density only about 10 years ago, so there was a lot of rural residential development before it seriously put the brakes on.
CDN: How long have you lived in Clarke County?
Johnston: I started March 1989, so it has been 22 and a half years.
CDN: Describe your professional career in Clarke County
Johnston: That’s a short question with a long answer! I’ve been involved with continuing Clarke’s efforts for protecting its rural areas from development, strengthening the planning activities for the Towns of Berryville and Boyce, and promoting historic preservation.
CDN: What accomplishments are you most proud of during your tenure in Clarke County?
Johnston: See above
CDN: Are there any disappointments that you are open to sharing?
Johnston: Planning is on ongoing effort, and I regret leaving many projects in various stages of incompleteness, but I am sure a new director will enjoy the challenge and bring a fresh perspective.
CDN: Do you have any anecdotal tales that, in some way, characterize some of your experiences here?
Johnston: You’ll have to wait to the book comes out… Seriously, the people I have worked with and for all have interesting personalities and I will always enjoy those memories.
CDN: You’ve been in Clarke County for a long time. Do you have feelings about moving that you are willing to share?
Johnston: Sometimes change is a good thing and this change seems like a good thing now for my wife and me.
CDN: What do you see as Clarke County’s biggest planning challenges over the next five years?
Johnston: Coming out the current recession with a productive economic development strategy and continuing to work with the Town of Berryville for the benefit of both the Town and the County.