Rehoboth's new planning & community development director joins team Oct. 23

Oct 11, 2023

When Mary Ellen Gray assumes her new role as the City of Rehoboth Beach’s first director of planning and community development October 23, she will bring with her about 25 years of experience working in the public planning sector, an enthusiasm for and skill set to develop policies and procedures to help Rehoboth reach its next level, and a willingness to listen more than she talks.

Planning & Community Development Director Mary Ellen Gray

Most recently the director of planning, inspections, and community development in Dover, Gray, a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners, also has worked in planning for the City of Newark and Kent County Levy Court as well as in Indiana and the City of Salisbury.

Gray says that she was attracted to Rehoboth’s newly created planning and community development director position, which serves as supervisor for the city’s building and licensing department, in part for the opportunity to help grow the city’s planning department and develop more transparent policies and procedures for the development review process.

“Rehoboth Beach is a jewel in the crown of Delaware,” Gray says. “Planning is a component of that, and I’d like to be part of the team to help Rehoboth Beach reach its next level.”

Establishing strong policies and procedures, Gray believes, is a cornerstone of good governance. “When everyone is aware of the processes and procedures,” she says, “then everyone – even if they don’t like the outcome – can understand how decisions are made.”

“We are thrilled to have Mary Ellen join the City of Rehoboth team,” says City Manager Laurence Christian. “There’s not much in the planning field that Mary Ellen hasn’t achieved or experienced. Her leadership, understanding of the planning field and the collaborative process of building stronger communities, and her experience in creating effective policies and streamlining procedures will help Rehoboth strengthen and grow our building and licensing department.”

Over the course of her five years with the City of Newark as director of planning and development, Gray worked with staff and the development community to create more transparent policies and procedures for the development review process. She also created and managed a citywide group to make policy recommendations to city council regarding issues related to the rental community; topics included affordable housing, senior housing, and student housing.

A self-proclaimed planning geek – as well as a physical activity enthusiast - Gray says that what keeps her passionate about planning, even after a quarter century in the field, is working with staff, elected officials, and the community to set a path to create a community of value that works for everyone. In setting that path, Gray says, it’s critical to understand the problems in order to find the answers and to practice listening more than talking.

Gray earned a bachelor’s degree in geology from the University of Rochester and a master’s in planning from the University of Virginia. She was an athlete in high school and had an academic/athletic scholarship to college as a basketball player. Today, she practices yoga in the morning and is midway to her second-degree black belt in taekwondo. She lives in Camden with her husband and two sons, who are 16 and 18.

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