Planner Profile: Milan Nevajda
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Meet Milan Nevajda, Planning Director, City of South Portland:
How many years in planning professions? 8
Current Job: Planning Director, City of South Portland
Tell us about your background: I was born in Croatia and my family moved to Canada in 1991. I grew up in the suburbs of Toronto, Ontario and went to school at the University of Toronto then McGill University for a masters in urban planning. My wife and I moved to Maine after graduation, which is where I began my planning career. After working in Maine as both a public and private sector planner, I moved to the Bay Area for a new career and personal adventure. My wife and I recently had two beautiful children (Felix and Mabel), so we moved back to Maine to be closer to family and because the right opportunity arose with South Portland—a community I grew to love while previously in Maine.
What led you into planning? After I earned my undergraduate degree I worked in Hong Kong and travelled extensively throughout Asia and Europe, visiting some of the world’s largest cities and remote reaches that were virtually untouched by people. That experience exposed me to many extremes in poverty and wealth, sustainable and unsustainable living, economic vitality and decay, and community harmony and discord. Planning is a profession, unlike any other, that has the responsibility to think globally at the local level, manage how we use and interact with the land today but always with an eye to 20 years into the future, and cultivate community vitality. I was drawn to the profession because of how diverse its mandate is and how critical planning is to creating healthy sustainable communities.
What is unique about planning in Maine? Maine is unique in that communities here are highly independent and of a size that allows residents and business owners to have a very direct link to planning work. This means that planning is more visceral and needs to be more pragmatic, which in my opinion is very important.
What is the most rewarding aspect of your work? Being responsible for seeing beyond the immediate issues at hand and ensuring that our communities are building toward long term resiliency, sustainability, and health.
What is the most challenging aspect of your work? There are technically challenging aspects and socially/culturally challenging aspects. In the first category, our most challenging issue is outdated regulations that are no longer keeping up with or representing the needs of the resident and business. In the second category: Bringing in the voice of hard to reach populations and segments of the community to ensure equitable access to the City’s community-building efforts.
Tell us about your dream project – what kind of planning work would you like to be more involved with? Much of my background is in long-range planning, and I have a particular interest in bridging economic development with sustainable development. My dream job is the one that I have: South Portland is an incredibly diverse community that is asking tough questions and seeking new, better answers to how it will develop over the next 10-20 years. My dream project is the Comprehensive Plan Update for South Portland, and we are kicking that off now!
What is your niche or main expertise? Long range planning; specifically as it relates to community engagement, housing, climate change, and economic development land use policies.
Milan Nevajda joined the South Portland Planning & Development Department as Planning Director in April, 2020. Milan's experience includes development review, long-range and master planning, economic development strategic planning, and environmental protection.