Jan 19, 2018
Vienna welcomes new planning director
Cindy Petkac, a planning professional with more than 20 years of community development and long-range planning experience, will join the Town of Vienna as planning and zoning director beginning January 29. Petkac replaces Patrick Mulhern, who retired from the Town earlier this month.
A certified planner with the American Planning Association (APA), Petkac most recently served, since March 2015, as planning division chief with the City of Fairfax. She also has worked as principal planner with the Union Station Redevelopment Corporation, planning manager for the City of Duluth (Minnesota), neighborhood planning coordinator for the District of Columbia, and transportation planner with the Chatham County-Savannah Metropolitan Planning Commission.
Currently a Herndon resident, Petkac grew up in a Cleveland suburb. “I walked to school, the corner store. I biked to the pool,” Petkac recalls. “Everyone should have an opportunity to grow up and live in a place that is walkable, feels safe, and has great places to go and shop.
“Vienna is a great town,” she adds. “It has a small-town atmosphere and yet all the benefits of being in a larger region with access to good jobs, shopping, schools. It’s the best of both worlds. Vienna has a lot of great places, and I’m excited to work with Town Council and residents to make it be just a little bit…more. What could we do to make Vienna a little more walkable, to improve on the community slightly?”
From Cleveland, Petkac headed to Bowling Green State University, which she attended with the intention of being a social studies teacher. When job market realities were pointed out, though, she opted instead to major in geography. “I like geography, maps, and places,” she says. “That’s how I ended up in planning. Planning is all about placemaking and what makes a community great.”
Petkac followed up her bachelor’s degree with a master’s degree in urban planning, design, and development from Cleveland State University.
Accomplishments across her 20-year planning career include:
• implementing a community engagement process for the City of Fairfax’s current comprehensive plan update that included a survey, events, scavenger hunt, and presentation by an expert panel on community development and economic vitality
• completely rewriting the City of Duluth’s zoning regulations and streamlining its permitting processes and reviews
• penning a newsletter article for the American Institute of Certified Planners entitled “10 Things To Remember When Preparing a Plan,” based on an unsuccessful planning initiative in the District of Columbia.
“My planning philosophy,” she says, “is that communities are about people. If people don’t live in a city, then it’s just a bunch of empty buildings. One of the challenges in doing good planning is involving the community and getting them excited about planning for the future.”
In one of her previous jobs, Petkac was the neighborhood planner for the area surrounding what is now Nationals Ballpark. Today, she’s a Nationals season ticketholder, though she also still roots for her Cleveland teams, the Indians and Browns. In addition, Petkac writes women’s fiction in her spare time. Though she has not yet been published, she’s currently working on her third novel, which will be set in the Northern Virginia suburbs.