If commuting to work on a Segway transporter is a sign of “tomorrow” kind of thinking, then let it be said that Jeff Raykes has been one with a mind for the future of Indiana County.
The 13-year veteran county planner, with projects promoting biking and pedestrian travel and urban growth management among the scores under his belt, will leave the Indiana County Office of Planning and Development on July 26.
Raykes has accepted a job as director of city planning in Greensburg, Westmoreland County. He’ll assume the $73,000-a-year post on July 29, according to a published report.
Greensburg City Council hired Raykes on Monday night. His resignation notice — not entirely unexpected, according to ICOPAD Executive Director Byron Stauffer Jr. — reached his boss and the county commissioners’ desks later Tuesday.
Since December 2015, Raykes has served as a deputy director of planning, one of six division leaders who report to Stauffer and Assistant Director Lu Ann Zak.
“I refer to him as a planner’s planner,” Stauffer said. “He believes in public engagement and inclusivity, getting everyone’s input to try to build consensus on whatever we’re trying to do.”
Raykes, a native of Virginia and a resident of Indiana since 1999, also has been an instructor at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
“He’s done a really good job of bringing in interns. We have a really good internship program and they’ve done a lot of good work over the years,” Stauffer added. He estimated that the program has brought 60 to 70 interns from IUP through the county to other positions in regional planning.
At the same time, Raykes earned a doctor of education degree from IUP.
“He’s had a pretty full plate,” Stauffer said. “So when you make that kind of educational milestone, you might want to go see what else is out there.”
This will be his second time at that. Raykes parted the county in July 2011 for a job as the municipal manager for Indiana Borough, a post that ended in late 2012 for reasons that neither Raykes nor the borough council talked much about. Raykes returned to ICOPAD in April 2013.
At the county planning office, Stauffer said Raykes was a key developer of the Indiana County Comprehensive Plan, and spearheaded the Indiana University Community Plan along with the social media engagement that brought more people into the process.
“He was outside the box for gathering input and data sets,” Stauffer said. “That has led to things like the extension of the Hoodlebug Trail into town, plans for some other developments that will happen over time. In Clymer, he helped with the form-based codes planning process.”
Raykes also has advanced the controversial proposal for construction of a bridge for hikers and bikers to cross Route 22 in Burrell Township east of Blairsville.
“He’s just a good person, and we’re very happy for him as he embarks on a new career journey,” Stauffer said.
In Greensburg, Raykes’ hiring concludes a five-month search for a director to succeed Barbara Ciampini, who headed the office for 35 years before being terminated by Greensburg City Council in February.
“We’re extremely excited to have him,” said Greensburg Mayor Robert Bell. “He comes with impeccable credentials.”