Sanda Pereira’s tenure as the City of Delaware’s newest director of planning and community development is now underway as she began on Monday. Last month, Pereira was tabbed to take over the position, capping a nationwide search that ensued following the departure of longtime Director Dave Efland.
Efland joined the City of Westerville in the same capacity on June 12 after 18 years of service in Delaware, leaving a large void for the city in a critical position. Pereira emerged as one of three final candidates to fill that void following meetings with city department heads, City Manager Tom Homan, and introductions to Delaware City Council members.
Homan, who made the appointment, said in a press release, “We are thrilled to welcome Sandra to our team. Her track record of successful urban planning initiatives and commitment to thoughtful growth and innovation align perfectly with our city’s values. I am confident that Sandra will lead us in creating a future of which our residents will be proud.”
Pereira spent the last 20 years in various planning department roles with the City of Beavercreek, a suburb of Dayton. She began as an intern with Beavercreek while getting her undergraduate degree from Wright State University. She went on to earn her graduate degree in public administration from the University of Dayton and has been working in development and planning with the city since.
Growing up, Pereira said she had no idea what she wanted to do as a career, and city planning was not on her radar given that she didn’t know such a role existed. While looking for an internship, she noticed the City of Beavercreek was hiring and figured she could handle administrative work. Once she settled in, however, Pereira was surprised to learn there was a role to be played that would heavily guide a city’s future.
“I was completely blown away by the fact that this was a career path that could be taken, that I could influence the development of a city,” Pereira told The Gazette. “I’m a very organized, categorical kind of person, so it was kind of really up my alley. I thought it was great, and the satisfaction you get when you’re working on projects and then you see the end result, and know you had something to do with that, it’s a really good feeling.”
Pereira continued to climb through the ranks inside the Beavercreek Planning Department, eventually being named the associate planner. She served in that role for 12 years before being elevated to the city planner position and holding it for the past four years.
Although she found out about the opening in Delaware through a chance email, Pereira was generally familiar with the community as a frequent competitor in the annual disk golf tournament played at Delaware State Park.
“I had been up here lots of times, and I just thought Delaware had this really charming downtown,” she said. “It’s a really neat community that is very unlike most other communities. It’s very unlike Beavercreek. When I saw the position open up, I thought it was a really interesting opportunity knowing all the things happening in the central Ohio region, knowing Delaware is growing, and that there are a lot of exciting things happening.”
In weighing the decision to apply for the opening, Pereira researched the Delaware Together Comprehensive Plan and the city’s goals and expectations.
“Knowing that (regional growth) was happening, it was just common sense to know it would have an impact on Delaware,” she said. “The Intel plant might not be coming to Delaware, but the fact that it’s going to be so close, it’s going to have an effect on the entire region. People are going to be looking for places to live, looking for places to shop and eat. So looking at Delaware and seeing that they’ve already had this incredible growth over the past couple of decades in a way that Beavercreek had a couple of decades before, that was exciting to me that I could be a part of that growth.”
As for how she feels her experiences in Beavercreek can help her to lead Delaware’s continued growth, Pereira said the housing boom that coincided with her arrival there is one parallel that can be drawn.
She added, “It’s also everything that comes along with housing. When you have all the housing, you want to have the support that goes along with it as far as offices and shopping, food and grocery. Once the housing market kind of took a downturn in Beavercreek, we saw more of an emphasis on those kinds of supporting developments. I think that’s something that, as housing continues to grow in Delaware, we’re going to see here as well.”
Pereira went on to say while she is excited to help manage the growth Delaware is currently experiencing, she also wants to protect the charming, small-town feel that makes it such an attractive place for people to live.
“To be able to guide that growth and still be able to maintain that uniqueness Delaware has is exciting,” she said.
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.