‘It’s a big blessing for me’: St. George appoints new community development director

ST. GEORGE — Earlier this month the city appointed a new community development director to fill the position after the former one became the city manager last year.

Carol Winner is named the city of St. George’s new community development director during the City Council’s March 7 meeting, St. George, Utah, March 14, 2024 | Photo courtesy of the city of St. George / CEC, St. George News

Carol Winner, who has worked as a senior planner and interim development director for the city, was named the new community development director by the St. George City Council during its March 1 meeting. She replaces John Willis, who was made the city manager in early 2023.

“I really want to say thank you to the council, and John of course, for this opportunity,” Winner said during the council meeting. “I feel really excited and very blessed for this opportunity.”

Winner originally worked for the city of St. George between 2018 and 2019 before relocating to work in Kansas where she was involved in the planning and zoning for several towns there. She eventually returned to St. George “because the city is just spectacular.”

“St. George has been discovered,” St. George Mayor Michele Randall said. “Our growth has been incredible and our challenge is how we manage it. With Carol, we have found a steady hand to help us meet the challenge. Her experience and common-sense approach are exactly what we need at this time.”

In her new role, Winner told St. George News she will oversee several divisions related to planning and land use within the city.

Stock image | Photo by Photovs/iStock/Getty Images, St. George News

This includes the issuance of building permits and building inspections, granting business licenses, approving special events, planning and zoning, code enforcement and other related duties.

“Any development in the city starts in this department,” Winner said.

In 2023, the city issued 2,419 permits with a total valuation of approximately $328.5 million, according to the city’s press release. In January and February of this year, the city issued 563 permits for a total valuation of more than $120 million.

Winner said she had an interest in architecture and landscape architecture and attended Brigham Young University to learn more and find a job related to that field. She ultimately ended up learning how to be a municipal planner. Winner had hoped to go into the private sector following her graduation in 2011, but due to the job market at the time, she ended up finding public employment instead.

Carol Winner talks about being named the city of St. George’s new community development director during the City Council’s March 7 meeting, St. George, Utah, March 14, 2024 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

“It’s kind of stuck with me and here I am,” she said, adding, “I love development — period. I love to see raw land get developed. … It’s fun to work with developers to help build this city and build it in a way that services the community. … One of the things I really enjoy is working with the people and the residents.”

While she enjoys her job, Winner added one of the challenges is having to tell people “no” sometimes when they come to the city with a project they want to pursue. It can feel like “crushing someone’s dreams” Winner said, yet added city staff do what they can to offer alternatives.

Even if a proposed project or event isn’t approved initially because it runs afoul of city code, it doesn’t mean someone is entirely out of luck. City staff will work with the applicant to identify alternative options to help them achieve their goal, Winner said.

“It is nice to find solutions,” she said. “All the staff here are so willing to help you and work together and be collaborative.”

Another challenge of working in planning and development in St. George – and across the nation – is affordable housing, Winner said.

This file photo shows construction trucks and workers building a housing and resort portion of the Desert Color development, near the empty land that will be used for Intermountain Desert Color Parkway Emergency Services, St. George, Utah, May 23, 2023 | Photo by Chris Reed, St. George News

“It’s very difficult right now,” she said.

Many adult children have had to return home to live with their parents due to being unable to find somewhere affordable to rent or buy; among them are Winner’s daughter and granddaughter. While she likes having them around, she said she wants them to be able to get their own home, too.

Though many factors beyond the city’s control play into why housing costs are so high, one of the ways the city is trying to help is by allowing more “accessory dwelling units” to be created. These units are sometimes called “mother-in-law apartments” and can be basement apartments, casitas and so on that supply additional housing options.

Overall, Winner said she is grateful to be working for the city and appreciates the opportunity the City Council has given her.

“It’s a big blessing for me,” she said. “I have a great love for St. George.”

In addition to being the city’s new community development planner, Winner is a certified floodplain manager, certified public manager and a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners.

Willis said he is looking forward to having Winner on their executive team.

“I’ve worked with Carol for a long time and I know she is going to be really good in this role,” Willis said. “As we chart our future and how best to manage our growth, it’s refreshing to have someone experienced, thoughtful and easy to work with to help guide us. I’m excited and proud of Carol and I welcome her to our executive team.”

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2024, all rights reserved.

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