When Rodney S. Tucker gives his job title, what people envision is nowhere near what he does. He is a planner, but he can’t help with your next big birthday party or bridal shower.
Others think he is responsible for the financial stability or portfolios for individuals or companies as a financial planner. But he is neither.
Tucker’s role is to help towns or counties that need commercial and residential planning. He handles comprehensive plan updates, neighborhood plans as well as some zoning rewrites.
He has the credentials to prove it. Tucker is certified by the American Institute of Certified Planners. He has an undergraduate degree in geography from Fayetteville State University in North Carolina and a master’s degree from Ohio State University.
He has been doing what he does for more than 10 years, working for the city of Greenville, Henderson County and Hartsville and Darlington counties’ planning departments. He is also the owner RS3 Planning Collaborative Inc.
His company handles the new and continuing education training for council and county board members, which is how the opportunity to work with the town of Cheraw came about.
Tucker was facilitating the new board members’ training with Town Administrator Michael Smith and Cheraw and Chesterfield council members were in attendance.
“I appreciate Mike, who is willing to take the chance and ask me or even give me the opportunity to do it,” Tucker said. “That’s a testimony to him personally. He saw what I could do and said, ‘We might want to try this in Cheraw.’”
Working on a contract basis, he works two days a week with the town.
“My days thus far are trying to catch up and learn something about the town. I am learning more about it every day. But also look through some of their zoning, make sure that is not outdated,” he said.
He then takes his findings to the planning commissioners who make recommendations to the council.
Tucker said he is still trying to meet people and connect the dots to get Cheraw to grow the way Cheraw wants to grow.
“My job is to aid that growth and work with Mike (Smith) and his staff and the citizens of Cheraw in going that direction,” he said.
There is a method to the madness of planning, he explained, and part of his job is to make sure the town is following the federal, state and local laws. If all guidelines and regulations are not followed, laws may be broken and the town could face legal liability.
“A lot of it is gauging where are we now, what they’re planning and how can we make it to the point of it’s supportive and embraces growth,” he said.
Tucker said his role is to develop plans for the town that meet leaders’ objectives.
“My job is to help guide that,” he said. “I am not here to be savior or try and tell people what to they need to do, don’t do. I am trying to find partners, the pieces, pull those pieces together where they work and start initiating conversations to think outside the box.”
The town is now working on the comprehensive plan, which guides the spending as far as council allotments, and the vision of the town to make sure they complement each other.
Cheraw residents will be able to give their input during a public meeting Jan. 18 in the courtroom.
A native of a small town in Spartanburg County called Arkwright, Tucker credits his home as the spark that led to his career choice.
“There was so much love in that community. It was until later (I figured out) we were considered a poor, low-income neighborhood,” he said. “But one of the curiosities I always asked myself: Why is there different? Why is there something over here and not over there?”
Considering himself personable, Tucker’s first career choice was a doctor, but after sitting through a chemistry class and dealing with beakers and not actual people, he decided medicine wasn’t the career for him.
Many of his schoolmates became teachers, but that wasn’t what Tucker wanted.
During his sophomore year, a professor told him about urban sociology, possibly planning. After doing some research, he figured out why his neighborhood didn’t look like others. Then he knew what he wanted to do.
“So it started out as a curiosity,” he said. “I am here to help the community and do what I can for them on a consulting basis. I enjoy planning. I enjoy working with people. I enjoy seeing cities and towns change. Sometimes growth is slow. It’s an education process.”
Tucker has come to realize that growth is scary and when people are accustomed to things being a certain way, they may be reluctant to try new things.
Some may feel they might be isolated or excluded. Although he is working to help Cheraw move forward, he emphasized that it can’t be expected to grow to the size of Greenville, Columbia or Charleston.
Officials will use Cheraw’s best aspects to move it forward, but growth has to fit within the structure of the town.
He sees the potential in Cheraw and said he is looking forward to the “marriage” between his firm and the town.
Reach Maria D. Grandy at 843-537-5261.