Q&A: Theresa Thompson’s Duties as Pittsboro’s New Planning Director

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We asked Theresa Thompson about her typical day, her biggest challenges and her vision for the future of Pittsboro

Theresa Thompson

 By Chris Vitiello | Photography by John Michael Simpson

Pittsboro Planning Director Theresa Thompson and her husband, Bryan Thompson, moved to Chatham County in 2013 and live in Siler City with their daughters, Taylor Thompson, 13, and Alex Thompson, 9, their dogs, Mango, Boomer and Onchow, and their cats, Guster and Donut. Theresa has a bachelor’s degree in community and regional planning from Appalachian State University. 

What is your background? What planning work did you do before you came to Pittsboro?

I have 15 years of experience in planning. After starting my career as the planning director in Montgomery County, North Carolina, [I also was] the planning director for Lillington and planning supervisor in Moore County, [both in North Carolina]. I’ve deeply enjoyed each of my prior positions, and I’m very happy to return to municipal planning, particularly within a growing and vibrant community here in Chatham County.

What is a typical workday like for you?

As you might imagine, with the rate of growth and development activity within Pittsboro’s planning jurisdiction, a “typical” workday isn’t always that typical. The types of issues that occur on a daily basis are both challenging and exciting. As I am still new in this position, a good amount of attention is given to reviewing, creating and updating application and workflow processes and building a planning staff that can help meet these challenges in the most effective and efficient ways possible.

What kinds of civic needs concern you the most?

Workforce/affordable housing is an ongoing community concern. The Pittsboro area is a highly desired location for residential and commercial development. While this offers opportunities for our residents and businesses, it also represents a challenge for meeting the needs of low- to moderate-income families. Affordable housing is a topic of ongoing discussions within the community, with the town’s administration and among the Board of Commissioners

What are the current planning priorities for Pittsboro? What are the active projects on your desk at the moment? 

There are really too many to name. We are easily assisting at least 50 different types of development permits and projects right now. Every project takes staff time to thoroughly review to ensure all standards are being met and all issues are being vetted. Then, staff analysis is relayed to the Planning Board and Board of Commissioners. From an organizational perspective, our top priorities at this time are focused on the fundamentals – providing exceptional customer service, meeting deadlines and creating a healthy work environment rooted in the core values of trust and mutual respect. 

Pittsboro is changing quickly. What planning needs to be done for the city’s future? 

The department has several projects on the to-do list right now that offer lasting positive impacts for Pittsboro. These include updating the newly adopted Unified Development Ordinance, the Comprehensive Transportation Plan and the Land Use Plan. Each of these projects is a massive but necessary undertaking. 

What are Pittsboro’s biggest challenges, from a planning standpoint? 

Aside from working through the three projects just mentioned, our biggest challenge, from a planning perspective, is to work with all civic and community partners to ensure that, as the town expands, it does so with easy accessibility. Amid Pittsboro’s rapid growth, our department must do what we can to keep our community feeling connected and cohesive. 

What projects are you most excited about in the coming year? 

I am excited about our department’s upcoming work around the downtown area. Downtowns often serve as the social, historic, cultural and economic center of communities. With the anticipated growth of Pittsboro, preserving and strengthening our downtown can go a long way toward fostering a sense of place and personality for our unique community. 

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