News alert: Planning Director Frank Duke stepping down in March

    Planning Director Frank Duke has notified members of the East Baton Rouge Parish Planning Commission that he will step down in March, after nearly six years at the helm of the agency.

    “It’s time,” Duke, 65, tells Daily Report. “I’m old. I’m tired.”

    Duke mailed his letter of resignation to the personal addresses of commission members late last week. Some, including Rowdy Gaudet, the mayor’s appointee to the commission and an assistant chief administrative officer for the city-parish, received the letter over the weekend.

    “I give a lot of credit to Frank for adding a lot of value to the Planning Commission,” Gaudet says. “He recognized the unique nature of Baton Rouge’s neighborhoods and he integrated that into his approach to planning for the community. He recognized there wasn’t a one size that fits all, and that was appreciated.”

    Other commission members had not gone through their mail or received the letter yet.

    “I’m shocked,” says Commissioner Ulysses “Bones” Addison. “I’m sorry to see him go. I think he did a great job.”

    Duke says while the decision may seem unexpected to some, he always planned to make Baton Rouge the last stop in his lengthy career.

    A veteran planner, who formerly headed the planning departments in Norfolk, Virginia, and, before that, Durham, North Carolina, Duke was hired by the Planning Commission in May 2014, after an extensive and, at times, contentious national search.

    He is credited with bringing transparency to a department that, for decades, had been criticized for being too close to the development community.

    Among his most significant accomplishments over the past five years has been updating the parish zoning code, which was riddled with inconsistencies and wasn’t in sync with Baton Rouge’s 2012 master plan, FuturEBR. Duke’s last day is March 13.