After about a decade in city planning in the metropolitan government of Washington, D.C., Chris Delfs said he began thinking about working in a smaller city where he could have greater impact.
He will get that chance in Lancaster, where he has been named director of the Department of Community Planning and Economic Development.
Mayor Danene Sorace announced the appointment of the 41-year-old Delfs at City Council’s meeting Tuesday.
The recruitment process was a lengthy one, “and at every step Chris impressed the staff and the executive leadership team,” Sorace said.
Delfs is to start July 8, at an annual salary of $138,000. Sorace said his top priorities at the outset will be housing and the overhaul of the city’s comprehensive plan, which dates to 1993.
He is replacing Randy Patterson, who is retiring this month. Under Patterson, the department was known as Economic Development and Neighborhood Revitalization; it has been renamed as part of a reorganization that involved consolidating the city’s planning functions.
In D.C., Delfs was most recently the deputy director of the Office of Planning, managing the community planning and design functions. His team dealt with land use citywide as well as developing targeted neighborhood plans.
From 2015 to 2018, he was the office’s chief of staff, helping to manage 72 employees and a budget of $10 million.
He played a key role in the development of Audi Field, a stadium for the D.C. United pro soccer team that opened last summer; in planning the mixed-use redevelopment of the 66-acre former Walter Reed Army Medical Center site, to be known as the Parks at Walter Reed; and in creating D.C.’s comprehensive plan and various master plans.
Delfs said he had heard a lot of great things about Lancaster, but hadn’t visited until he applied for the job. He said he finds Lancaster’s history, its diversity and the vibrancy of its cultural and culinary scene tremendously appealing.
“I feel I have a ton to learn about the city and the community,” he said.
He said his training and philosophy emphasize harmonizing economic, social and environmental development. The goal, he said, is not imposing a plan, but working with neighborhoods to achieve “what that community is looking for.”
Marshall Snively, president of the Lancaster City Alliance, called Delfs a “great fit.” Lisa Riggs, president of the Economic Development Company of Lancaster County, called his background “extraordinarily interesting” and said Lancaster is lucky to get someone of his caliber.
Delfs earned a bachelor’s degree from Middlebury College and master’s degrees from American University and the United Nations University for Peace in Costa Rica. He earned a certificate in collaborative governance from Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government.
He and his wife have three children.