New development director ready for work in Woodstock
by Megan Thornton
March 17, 2013 12:00 AM | 2934 views | 1 1 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print

Jessica Guinn recently took over as Woodstock's community development director to replace Richard McLeod. Above: Guinn works on starting a new project. <br>Staff/Todd Hull
Jessica Guinn recently took over as Woodstock's community development director to replace Richard McLeod. Above: Guinn works on starting a new project.
Staff/Todd Hull
WOODSTOCK — Jessica Guinn, Woodstock’s new community development director, isn’t one to slow things down.

The devoted runner and mother said after six years working for a development firm serving many jurisdictions throughout Georgia, she was itching to get back into working in the public sector.

“You learn so much and you’re exposed to so many different things, because I worked for rural communities like Merriweather County and Butts County, and suburban communities like city of Hampton and DeKalb County and even more urban places like the city of Atlanta, so I saw a lot of different types of communities and how they did things,” Guinn said of her previous job. “The challenge was that since I was splitting my time between so many jurisdictions, I felt like I didn’t get to give anybody 100 percent. So that’s one of the things that’s really exciting about being back in the public sector so I can be fully committed to Woodstock.”

The Cobb County native, who lives with her husband, Ryan, and 3-year-old son, Eric, in Powder Springs, said the position was especially attractive because of the city’s reputation.

“Woodstock, throughout the region, really has been recognized among the planning industry as a great example of smart growth in the Atlanta region and certainly one of the leaders in that area, so when this position was available I knew that it would be a great opportunity and there’s a lot of good stuff going on up here.”

She said one of the city’s ongoing projects she’s hoping to delve into further is the implementation of form-based code at the Ridgewalk area, both in and around the Outlet Shoppes of Atlanta.

“Planners, we all talk about form-based code a lot, but there’s not a lot of it going on in Georgia so it’s really exciting to have an opportunity to see it in action and see how it’s implemented, what some of the issues are and what some of the opportunities are and how we can continue to make that process better,” she said.

As Guinn explains it, form-based code differs from traditional zoning as it is less concerned with grouping uses, like not permitting an industrial facility near a residential area.

“Form-based code isn’t so concerned about what’s going on inside the buildings as much as how the buildings, the improvements all fit in to the urban form,” she said. “It’s really geared toward promoting walkable, pedestrian-scale communities.”

Guinn said once members the community sees that type of development take shape, they’ll have a better understanding of Woodstock’s long-term plans for a more liveable community.

“It’ll be a learning experience for everyone, the (local) community as well as the development community and just helping (developers) learn that you can do your development within these guidelines and we can create a real place instead of just having another commercial corridor.”

Guinn replaced Richard McLeod, who after 10 years with the city left for the same position with the city of Alpharetta. The two met just a couple of weeks ago to discuss her new role.

“Everybody has their season,” she said. “I think he had his season here and did great things and I think now it’s an opportunity for me to come in with a fresh set of eyes and look at all the great things we’re doing here in Woodstock. How do we keep that going? How do we look at area we can improve? What can we do better?”

Moving forward, Guinn said she plans to work with City Manager Jeff Moon on securing Opportunity Zones for the city, a statewide program from the Department of Community Affairs that provides tax credits for jobs created.

Though Cherokee County has more than 5,000 acres designated as Opportunity Zones, there are none located within the city of Woodstock and the designation would require approval by mayor and council.

“To receive a $3,500 tax credit for every employee that you bring on, that’s a great incentive to move to a jurisdiction. This will just be another feather in our cap,” Guinn said.

Guinn said her dream job is to one day become a city manager, a role she’s been attracted to since completing her master’s degree in public administration from Kennesaw State University.

“As city manager, I think you’re touching everything from water and sewer to police to parks and recreation, and just having the opportunity to serve the community in that capacity is really something that I’m looking forward to doing one day,” she said.

Though many Americans look to state and national government, Guinn said she believes more of a difference can be made locally.

“When you look at it, our day-to-day lives are so much more affected and impacted by what’s happening at city hall or at the county commission meetings,” she said. “The opportunity to really help people and make their lives better closer to home is really exciting.”

Guinn’s career aspirations also reflect her personal interests—they both always seem to be set in motion.

“I don’t like to be still,” she said. “I like to have a lot of stuff going on.”

Over the last year and a half, she took up running and is participating in the 2013 Publix Georgia Half Marathon today. Last weekend, she ran the Silver Comet 10K in Mableton.

“It will be my third half marathon, second one this year,” she said. “I just like getting out there and running in a group of people. You just hear everybody’s feet hitting the ground together and they’re all talking. It’s a lot of fun and you really build a great T-shirt collection.”

But when it comes to the city of Woodstock, she took a bit of leisure time to enjoy the downtown area with her family last Sunday afternoon.

“Between all the nice places to eat and all the friendly people here, I feel like I’ve got it made in the shade,” she said.

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March 17, 2013
I think Jessica is a great asset to our community and is going to make great strides in the development of our city.
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