Hernando's new Director of Planning Keith Briley isn't averse to a good scrap now and then — at 6-foot-2, he was the star center at Hardin County High School in Savannah, Tenn., his hometown.
But the mild-mannered Briley prefers a smooth handoff instead to star players on the city's team as far as planning for growth and development in the DeSoto County seat.
"There is a lot of growth potential here," said Briley, who served previously as the Director of Planning for the City of Horn Lake, and before that an urban planner with Bridge and Watson, Inc. and the long-range planner for the City of Germantown, Tenn.
"I've noted that from the outside," said Briley, 50, who also served stints as a land planner with Askew Graves Harcourt & Associates in Memphis in addition to work as a draftsman with the Fisher and Arnold engineering firm in Memphis. "I'm excited about some of the developments that have been in the works for years like Hernando West," said Briley, of the sprawling development, west and northwest of the city's historic Square. "The Mayor and I were just talking about the potential for growth with the completion of I-269 and McIngvale Road."
Briley, a native of Tupelo, spent much of his early life in Savannah before attending Memphis State University, now the University of Memphis, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Engineering Technology and Architectural Technology and a Master of City and Regional Planning in 2007 from the University of Memphis. Briley holds several certifications and distinctions, including being a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners and both the national and Mississippi chapters of the American Planning Association.
Briley said he is optimistic when it comes to forecasting Hernando's future.
"Growth-wise, we are starting to pick up," Briley said. "We're now on the positive side. We are in need of updating our comprehensive plan, which is a policy statement that paints a big picture for how we would like to see the city grow and develop. We're not landlocked. We can grow west, south and to the east. These are areas where the city can expand, which doesn't mean annexing. We still have too much vacant land within the city."
Briley said there are many factors to Hernando's and DeSoto County's growth.
"DeSoto County's school system is really good, plus there is good quality of life in Hernando," Briley said. "There are ways to enhance that quality of life. We need to be more pedestrian-friendly and bicycle-friendly. In the few weeks I've been here, I've seen the need for making the downtown area more of a mixed-use development, with shops and lofts and restaurants."
In his spare time, Briley said he enjoys watching his beloved Memphis Tigers, both on the court and on the gridiron.
His parents still live in Savannah. His brother Kevin and sister Paula live in the Mid-South.
As for Briley, he isn't "settled down" completely just yet.
"I guess you could say that at age 50, I'm Hernando's most eligible bachelor," he joked.
Robert Lee Long is Community Editor of the DeSoto Times-Tribune. He may be contacted at email@example.com or at 662-429-6397, Ext. 252.