Mayor Ralph Becker turned to his neighbors to the north to help steer Salt Lake City's planning division out of a decadeslong downward spiral.

Becker today introduced longtime Davis County professional planner Wilford Sommerkorn as Salt Lake City's new planning director.

"Wilf Sommerkorn brings the expertise, experience and well-deserved respect from planners in Utah and nationally," Becker said. "He completes a leadership team at our Department of Community and Economic Development that will provide superb guidance to achieve Salt Lake City's potential as a great American city."

Sommerkorn has served as Davis County's director of community and economic development since 1994. In all, he's spent 27 years working for the northern Utah county.

"I'm looking forward to the new challenges and opportunities that will come with working in Utah's capital city," said Sommerkorn, a Salt Lake City native. "Throughout the interview process, I was very impressed with the high caliber of staff and the widespread enthusiasm throughout the city for improving the Salt Lake City Planning Division."

When he begins work in Salt Lake City on Aug. 25, Sommerkorn will inherit a long-troubled planning division labeled in April as "dysfunctional" in an independent audit by Citygate Associates.

Becker promised during his campaign to retool the planning division to address residents' frustrations over customer service and planning procedures and to restore the public's confidence in the division.

Several personnel changes have been made in the planning division under Becker's watch, including the firing of planning director George Shaw on March 3.

Becker filled a key void on June 10 when Frank Gray was hired as director of community and economic development, filling a position that has been vacant since the first-year mayor took office in January.

The planning division also has been reorganized in an effort to streamline the planning process and expedite decisions.

Sommerkorn's career as a professional planner includes work for the Transportation Research Center at the University of Tennessee, the south Davis County city of Centerville, the Wasatch Front Regional Council and the Davis County Council of Governments.

Sommerkorn earned a master's degree in science planning from the Graduate School of Planning at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, Tenn., as well as an undergraduate degree in physical geography from the University of Utah.

He has been active in professional planning organizations, including the American Planning Association, Urban Land Institute, Utah Economic Development Alliance and the Alliance for Regional Stewardship. He's also been involved in Envision Utah, the Utah Quality Growth Commission and the Davis COG Transportation Task Force.

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