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Tenth Decade Project
Director of Planning
City of Somerville, Massachusetts
George Proakis is the Director of Planning for the city of Somerville, Massachusetts. He graduated from Northeastern University with a BS in Civil Engineering in 1995, received his MPA from the Maxwell School in 1996, and received his Master in City Planning from MIT in 2002. Originally from Lexington, Massachusetts, George is now living in Melrose, Massachusetts.
“We serve as the City Planning Department for a mid-sized city just north of Boston, working on issues of long-term planning, zoning, development project review. We work closely with the Mayor's office and other divisions of the Office of Strategic Planning and Community Development (Housing, Economic Development and Transportation) to move forward the City's plans for growth, development, conservation and historic preservation,” George says. “We are currently re-writing the City's zoning ordinance, based upon our recently completed Comprehensive Plan. This is in addition to addressing the daily work involved in reviewing projects in a community with significant change and development.”
Before working in Somerville, George did similar work in Lowell, Massachusetts, a mill town north of Boston. His other work experience includes economic development and sustainable fuels work in upstate New York.
“Maxwell did amazing things to prepare me for the role I play today as a manager in local government. My work involves supervising government staff, establishing and carrying out long-term plans, managing the budget of my division, providing presentations and written material to local elected officials, and writing policy. All of these are skills that I first learned at Maxwell,” George says. “I worked through a program that provided an internship for me at Syracuse Research Corporation. This work provided financial support and real world policy experience as well as providing my first job after graduating from Maxwell.”
His advice for current students? “There are lots of great opportunities to make a difference in the world, but I urge current students to consider a career in local government. There is a real opportunity to make a difference, and there are now many innovative Mayors and City Managers looking for opportunities to try new things. As state and local funding becomes ever more limited, local governments are learning to use policy tools and efficiency strategies to do more with less. Taking a job in local government (and staying long enough to learn about the place and the people) allows a real opportunity to make a difference that can be seen and appreciated.”