Pechin, city’s deputy planning director, leaving City Hall for federal job

MaritzaPechin1 002 scaled

Maritza Pechin joined City Hall as a deputy planning director in 2021. (BizSense file photos)

Maritza Pechin, the city deputy planning director whose various roles have included guiding the Diamond District project and implementing the Richmond 300 plan, is going to work for Pete Buttigieg.

Pechin is departing City Hall this Friday to take a job with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Build America Bureau, where she’ll be educating local and state governments about funding opportunities for transportation infrastructure projects.

The move comes nearly two years after she met Buttigieg, the U.S. Secretary of Transportation, on a tour she was leading of Jackson Ward, where Pechin has been involved in neighborhood planning efforts and the Reconnect Jackson Ward initiative that the USDOT later awarded a $1.3 million planning grant.

But the Buttigieg connection isn’t what led to her job change, Pechin said.

Maritza1

Pechin leading a tour of Jackson Ward for Pete Buttigieg, right, and other officials in December 2021. (Photo courtesy Governor of Virginia Ralph Northam Flickr)

“Secretary Pete was not part of the recruitment process,” she said with a laugh, adding that the executive director of the Build America Bureau, whom she’d met at an event earlier this year, reached out to her with a job offer.

“He was like, ‘You know local government, and a lot of these loans go to local government; can you come in and help us run these workshops with local officials to help them learn about the programs that we have to offer, identify their projects and help them even begin to think about how they start to apply for something?’

“There’s all this unprecedented level of federal funding available, but if you’re a locality who doesn’t have a lot of experience with federal grants or federal loans, you’re at a disadvantage,” Pechin said. “I wasn’t really looking for something (new), but it felt like a good next move to be able to help localities across the country do transformative projects that help their communities.”

Pechin starts her new job in October but will be staying in Richmond, working remotely. The married mother of two resides in Northside and said she’ll remain a cheerleader for the city, with a close view of the Diamond District project that she helped get off the ground as an initial project manager.

MaritzaPechin3 002 scaled

Addressing prospective developers at a site tour last year for the Diamond District project.

While she’s often been the public face of such initiatives, Pechin said those projects will continue without her. Nonetheless, she acknowledged wrestling with the idea of walking away from them.

“Initially I wasn’t certain that I was going to leave, because I had so much personal love and interest in all the projects that I’ve been working on for the city. But I was slowly able to extract my own personal attachment, being like, ‘I can still love these projects, and they will still continue even if I am not there.’”

One of her frequent collaborators, Leonard Sledge, the city’s economic development director, noted Pechin’s team approach in remarking about her departure last week.

“Maritza is a great teammate whose leadership and contributions have helped to shape and advance transformational economic development projects in Richmond,” Sledge said. “Her work will benefit Richmond for generations.”

Richmond holds meeting on Diamond District

A virtual meeting with city colleagues Leonard Sledge and Sharon Ebert. (BizSense file)

Kevin Vonck, Richmond’s Planning and Development Review director, called Pechin’s departure a “big loss” for the department and the city, adding that he’s “happy for her and the next step in her career in helping communities leverage federal resources to do great things they thought may not be possible.”

Vonck said Pechin’s most significant contribution to the city was her role in helping create and implement the Richmond 300 master plan.

“Her team was able to reshape the way we do public engagement, which has built trust with broader segments of the community, and made conversations around future land use more approachable,” Vonck said. He also credited Pechin with playing “a significant behind-the-scenes role facilitating the review and selection of development partners” for the Diamond District and City Center projects.

CityCenter4

Pechin and Leonard Sledge, at front, lead a City Center tour through the former Festival Park between the Blues Armory and the Coliseum.

Initially working with the city as an embedded consultant with national planning firm AECOM, Pechin helped guide the development of Richmond 300 and then, after the plan was completed in late 2020, switched from the private sector to work for the city directly as a deputy planning director, overseeing the office of equitable development that was created with her hire.

That office has since grown to seven employees, and Pechin said she expects her role will be refilled.

“What my office does is long-range planning and implementation of the long-range plan, and that is a very needed function in city government,” she said. “Before I came on, there was really only one position that was solely dedicated to long-range planning.”

Since arriving in Richmond a decade ago, the Harvard graduate with a master’s in city and regional planning from the University of Pennsylvania has served as an adjunct professor at VCU and spent a year at Fulton Hill Properties, the local development firm led by Margaret Freund.

Pechin noted that this January would mark 10 years that she’s been doing community development and planning in Richmond, having started as an interim secretary to the city’s Public Art Commission.

JacksonWard3 scaled

Pechin leading a community expo on the Jackson Ward community plan at the Hippodrome last year.

“I helped do the early planning work that ended up leading to the Maggie Walker statue and the rings at the other end of the Potterfield bridge,” she said.

Pechin said her move to the federal level is also a point of pride for her family. A second-generation urban planner, Pechin noted that her mother retired from the USDOT.

“My mom started crying the other day from just how proud she was of me,” she said.

MaritzaPechin1 002 scaled

Maritza Pechin joined City Hall as a deputy planning director in 2021. (BizSense file photos)

Maritza Pechin, the city deputy planning director whose various roles have included guiding the Diamond District project and implementing the Richmond 300 plan, is going to work for Pete Buttigieg.

Pechin is departing City Hall this Friday to take a job with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Build America Bureau, where she’ll be educating local and state governments about funding opportunities for transportation infrastructure projects.

The move comes nearly two years after she met Buttigieg, the U.S. Secretary of Transportation, on a tour she was leading of Jackson Ward, where Pechin has been involved in neighborhood planning efforts and the Reconnect Jackson Ward initiative that the USDOT later awarded a $1.3 million planning grant.

But the Buttigieg connection isn’t what led to her job change, Pechin said.

Maritza1

Pechin leading a tour of Jackson Ward for Pete Buttigieg, right, and other officials in December 2021. (Photo courtesy Governor of Virginia Ralph Northam Flickr)

“Secretary Pete was not part of the recruitment process,” she said with a laugh, adding that the executive director of the Build America Bureau, whom she’d met at an event earlier this year, reached out to her with a job offer.

“He was like, ‘You know local government, and a lot of these loans go to local government; can you come in and help us run these workshops with local officials to help them learn about the programs that we have to offer, identify their projects and help them even begin to think about how they start to apply for something?’

“There’s all this unprecedented level of federal funding available, but if you’re a locality who doesn’t have a lot of experience with federal grants or federal loans, you’re at a disadvantage,” Pechin said. “I wasn’t really looking for something (new), but it felt like a good next move to be able to help localities across the country do transformative projects that help their communities.”

Pechin starts her new job in October but will be staying in Richmond, working remotely. The married mother of two resides in Northside and said she’ll remain a cheerleader for the city, with a close view of the Diamond District project that she helped get off the ground as an initial project manager.

MaritzaPechin3 002 scaled

Addressing prospective developers at a site tour last year for the Diamond District project.

While she’s often been the public face of such initiatives, Pechin said those projects will continue without her. Nonetheless, she acknowledged wrestling with the idea of walking away from them.

“Initially I wasn’t certain that I was going to leave, because I had so much personal love and interest in all the projects that I’ve been working on for the city. But I was slowly able to extract my own personal attachment, being like, ‘I can still love these projects, and they will still continue even if I am not there.’”

One of her frequent collaborators, Leonard Sledge, the city’s economic development director, noted Pechin’s team approach in remarking about her departure last week.

“Maritza is a great teammate whose leadership and contributions have helped to shape and advance transformational economic development projects in Richmond,” Sledge said. “Her work will benefit Richmond for generations.”

Richmond holds meeting on Diamond District

A virtual meeting with city colleagues Leonard Sledge and Sharon Ebert. (BizSense file)

Kevin Vonck, Richmond’s Planning and Development Review director, called Pechin’s departure a “big loss” for the department and the city, adding that he’s “happy for her and the next step in her career in helping communities leverage federal resources to do great things they thought may not be possible.”

Vonck said Pechin’s most significant contribution to the city was her role in helping create and implement the Richmond 300 master plan.

“Her team was able to reshape the way we do public engagement, which has built trust with broader segments of the community, and made conversations around future land use more approachable,” Vonck said. He also credited Pechin with playing “a significant behind-the-scenes role facilitating the review and selection of development partners” for the Diamond District and City Center projects.

CityCenter4

Pechin and Leonard Sledge, at front, lead a City Center tour through the former Festival Park between the Blues Armory and the Coliseum.

Initially working with the city as an embedded consultant with national planning firm AECOM, Pechin helped guide the development of Richmond 300 and then, after the plan was completed in late 2020, switched from the private sector to work for the city directly as a deputy planning director, overseeing the office of equitable development that was created with her hire.

That office has since grown to seven employees, and Pechin said she expects her role will be refilled.

“What my office does is long-range planning and implementation of the long-range plan, and that is a very needed function in city government,” she said. “Before I came on, there was really only one position that was solely dedicated to long-range planning.”

Since arriving in Richmond a decade ago, the Harvard graduate with a master’s in city and regional planning from the University of Pennsylvania has served as an adjunct professor at VCU and spent a year at Fulton Hill Properties, the local development firm led by Margaret Freund.

Pechin noted that this January would mark 10 years that she’s been doing community development and planning in Richmond, having started as an interim secretary to the city’s Public Art Commission.

JacksonWard3 scaled

Pechin leading a community expo on the Jackson Ward community plan at the Hippodrome last year.

“I helped do the early planning work that ended up leading to the Maggie Walker statue and the rings at the other end of the Potterfield bridge,” she said.

Pechin said her move to the federal level is also a point of pride for her family. A second-generation urban planner, Pechin noted that her mother retired from the USDOT.

“My mom started crying the other day from just how proud she was of me,” she said.

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Jason Guillot
Jason Guillot
10 months ago

Maritza, thanks for all of your contributions to Richmond. You’re a transformational leader and as City residents we were lucky to have you. Best of luck!

Victoria Woodhull
Victoria Woodhull
10 months ago

“educating local and state governments about funding opportunities” and the article states ““There’s all this unprecedented level of federal funding available”
So the Feds ask for more taxpayer money from Congress, that isn’t being asked for, so Maritza is teaching localities to request federal taxpayer money for projects that 49 other states will fund?
Even with my disdain for the Federal grant system, I admire Maritza – she is making a great career move – so good for her.

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
9 months ago

“Sisterhood” trumps ethics?? I guess that is just human nature. Yes, the US govt keeps spending ever more money while trying desperately to choose winners ever more broadly, and calling it “inflation reduction” even though the more money the US govt spends, the more money it has to create. The Federal Govt and business leaders should know where the infrastructure improvements will give the best bang for the buck, but politics doesn’t work like that and unfortunately money will be spent on Really Hard To Get To, WV and Forgetaboutit, AK because of the power of graft and patronage built… Read more »

Brian Glass
Brian Glass
10 months ago

In my opinion this is a risky move. If the Biden Administration loses next year she could be out of a job. Who knows, she could be back sooner than expected!

Victoria Woodhull
Victoria Woodhull
10 months ago
Reply to  Brian Glass

She is part of the administrative state – they do not lose their jobs when administrations change. Now if she was Buttigieg appointee – then yes, she goes with the Buttigieg adminstration.
Hopefully, she will not base her education on the political party of the grant applicant.

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
9 months ago

Her job is likely to be just that — sent to not just help educate, but as “outreach” — to encourage, maybe even cajole certain areas to apply for grants.

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
9 months ago

You’ve got THAT right as far as career goes — no risk at all as long as she keeps playing the game — next stop may be a stint in acedemia or a Think Tank if she can’t rise in her Dept, and then maybe eventually come back to Transportation in a higher rank. I’ll never forget a lecture I heard from an NYU professor on professional advancement counciling themed something like “Most Jobs Are Dead-End Jobs” saying that if career is your focus, you will find that most employers, esp if they are not growing, are dead-end places. He… Read more »

Peter James
Peter James
10 months ago

Maritza is amazing on all fronts and, hands down, is one of the very best truly professional planners this city has ever had. USDOT’s gain in RVA’s loss. I am heartened that she and her family will continue to live in Richmond. Whoever backfills this position has HUGE shoes to fill. She will be sorely missed here. Mazal Tov and all the best to you, Ms. Pechin – and humble thanks for all your tremendous leadership in the planning department and your abundant contributions to Richmond’s future – a future that’s much brighter thanks in no small part to your… Read more »

Michael Morgan-Dodson
Michael Morgan-Dodson
9 months ago

I liked her personally but we needed independent person that don’t bend to the will of the Mayor and his whims. I find it funny that she is leaving before the Diamond deal is finalized. More and more I see this dealing having issues. City’s previous plan updates said drawings and plan and board for the bonds would be finalizing the schematic designs and complete general contractor design, budget, bidding and material procurement by August 2023. Not seen any updates on MLB extension approval either.

Jodie Strum
Jodie Strum
9 months ago

You will often hear Maritza’s name come up in conversation when people are talking about positive progress at the City- and her reputation is that of a forward thinker, strong leader AND team player. I think this is a huge loss for RVA, but we were lucky to have her as long as we did. Good luck to her on this next chapter!

Last edited 9 months ago by Jodie Strum
Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
9 months ago
Reply to  Jodie Strum

In what areas of “positive progress”? Almost all positive progress I have seen in RIchmond for the past 20 years has come from OUTSIDE City Hall, and often DESPITE City Hall.

But I am always open minded and willing to be educated, even if only to a “there are exceptions” degree.

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
9 months ago
Reply to  Shawn Harper

My father always laughed about Albany, NY city hall people showing up and taking credit for anything cool the private sector managed to accomplish there, often IN SPITE of State and local govt — he would not approve of all the Planning Fanboys here either, no doubt. Urban planning, I have long noticed, tends to be ideological cut-and-paste and “make it so, person who actually knows how to do things” types of stuff.