The City of Rolla recently welcomed James Shields as it's new city planner, and despite being on the job for a short while, he is already enthusiastic about the work he'll be doing for the city.

The City of Rolla recently welcomed James Shields as it’s new city planner, and despite being on the job for a short while, he is already enthusiastic about the work he’ll be doing for the city.

“My role is to analyze information and to present information to the planning and zoning commission, who are the ones making recommendations to the city council,” he explained.

Shields grew up in St. Louis and attended Missouri University in Columbia, getting a minor in geography and majoring in sociology. Shields said his major is key to the way he approaches city planning in Rolla.

“You learn about equality issues,” he said. “Which is one of the main goals of planning, to make sure there’s equal distribution of public services, and to look at how your current actions will affect people of different social strata in the future.”

Shields said he knew he wanted to be a city planner even before he finished his undergrad degree, and always wanted to focus on the effects of land use and the equality issues that can arise from certain techniques and development patterns.

“There was a class I took called environmental ethics,” Shields explained. “And I read this book called “The Geography of Nowhere,” and I learned about traditional neighborhood development and I figured out the best way to make things better was to make our cities better.” Shields said he wants to see cities function at a higher level and to see people happier, and working to improve a city is one of the best ways to support the public.

Shields also has a Master’s degree from a school in Tallahassee. Throughout his education, Shields said he did a lot of study on the history of housing, and how cities develop and become the places they are. He said this is another area where his background in sociology prepared him for the position.

As our new city planner gets to know the city, he said he’ll be getting in touch with pedestrian level activity, learning about the town on the street level.

“What I would like to do is become more familiar with the history and the current development that’s going on, getting ahold of the trends and talking to the people and doing a lot of public engagement. i think public engagement is key to what we do in the future.”

Shields said that being in a small town like Rolla creates more opportunities for him to help people. According to Shields, working in a large city can cause a city planner to be stuck doing only a specific set of tasks. Here in Rolla, Shields explained he’ll be able to tackle a variety of duties to help the town grow in it’s best fashion.

“It’s an opportunity to utilize a lot of what I’ve been trained to do, like public engagement,” he said.

By striving to engage with he public, Shields hopes to learn how the they envision the future of their community, and then work to make that dream a reality. Until then, Shields is enjoying being a part of his new city.

“I’m a brand new citizen and i love it so far,” he said. “I think it’s a great city.”