The Wilmington Metropolitan Planning Organization has hired new staff members after its employee base dropped to nearly half-capacity this summer.
Mike Kozlosky, executive director of the WMPO, said the organization is maintaining staff and has added two additions in the recent months: Abby Lorenzo, who began working for the WMPO on Sept. 5, and Jason O’Brien, who began on Oct. 2.
The two new employees work in the roles of associate transportation planners.
Lorenzo comes to the WMPO from the town of Carolina Beach, where she was working on planning issues. She has a transportation and traffic background, and will "bring those skills to the position," Kozlosky said.
O'Brien joins the WMPO with several years of experience, serving most recently with a Metropolitan Planning Organization in Wichita, Kansas, and another in Colorado.
Lorenzo and O'Brien are both part of the WMPO’s Long Range Planning section, which provides long-term transportation plans for the area with a minimum of a 20-year horizon.
The WMPO is within the city of Wilmington's Planning, Development and Transportation department. The organization provides regional and cooperative transportation planning that serves as the basis for the spending of all federal transportation funds in the greater Wilmington area.
The WMPO’s planning area encompasses 494 square miles with jurisdictions within the Wilmington region, including municipal jurisdictions in surrounding Pender and Brunswick counties.
"They are very experienced and will bring a lot of great ideas to the organization. And they have a very hard work ethic," Kozlosky said of the two new members. "[With] those two positions, coupled with the senior planner position that we're looking to fill, we're going to have a great Long Range Planning team."
The WMPO's Long Range Planning section is getting ready to embark on developing the next long-range plan for 2045. The WMPO is required by law to update its long-range transportation plan every five years with the last plan updated in 2015, he said.
The section was essentially eliminated after the organization received three resignations within a few weeks' time
this summer. The organization has since been working to fill five vacant positions but still has more candidates to interview to build staffing back to its original 11-member team.
The organization is currently interviewing for the GIS (geographic systems) Analyst position.
The WMPO has advertised for the senior planning position and received a few applicants but has decided to relist that position to "cast a larger net," Kozlosky said. The deadline to apply is Oct. 15. The WMPO is also advertising for its project engineer position, with a deadline of Oct. 16.
"We really lay the blueprint for transportation infrastructure for the region," Kozlosky said. "We need staff that's got the knowledge, skills and abilities in long range and transportation planning in order to think long term and to work with our board to plan for the future of transportation in this region."
WMPO Board Chairman Gary Doetsch requested a study and recommendations to help prevent future loss during a July meeting. Kozlosky has since distributed information on the study, and other analyses are taking place.
This week, Kozlosky said the WMPO has approved a consultant to do a compensation analysis in the coming weeks. The WMPO will be utilizing the firm Capital Associated Industries Inc., a human resources firm with offices in Raleigh and Greensboro.
"The goal is to have it completed so we can utilize it during the upcoming budget process," Kozlosky said.
The compensation analysis will evaluate Metropolitan Planning Organizations of similar size and composition in the state and Southeast region, he said.