Schwartz takes the reins of Loganville Planning and Zoning

By Brett Fowler - the City of Loganville

Editor’s note: This is a story from the City of Loganville that appeared in the City’s Loganville Insider magazine.

Photo Credit: Brett Fowler – the City of Loganville

Learning a new job can be tough. It’s even more tough when your careers the last 20 years has been in a different job field.

But that’s where new Loganville Planning and Zoning Director Robbie Schwartz finds himself. Schwartz spent eight years at the city’s Public Information Officer, but about a year ago Schwartz made the move over the planning and zoning with the goal of replacing long time head honcho Tim Prater as director once Prater retired.

“It has been quite the learning curve,” Schwartz said. “In large part because I am replacing someone who had more than two decades worth of experience and knowledge. That isn’t something that can be easily replaced with classes and about a year’s worth of on-the-job training. It has taken a few months before I really settled into the role, but I have no doubt I made the right decision.”

Schwartz officially made the switch to the planning and zoning department in early 2023 but didn’t take over until director until January 2024. That gave him plenty of time to watch and learn under Prater before ascending to the role of director. In that time, Schwartz got a first-hand look at a vast array of situations that could arise.

“I have told people that it seems since I took on the role first as assistant director, something would come up and Tim would go, ‘Man, I haven’t seen a situation like that in the 20 years I have been there,” Schwartz said. “It was like that up until the day he retired.”

Photo credit: Brett Fowler – the City of Loganville

Schwartz’s move wasn’t a decision that came on a whim. It came about after years of working alongside Prater and showing a knack for understanding what the new position would require.

“As project specialist, I spent time on identifying different avenues to help kickstart the redevelopment effort for downtown Loganville. Once we moved into the current City Hall, former Planning Director Tim Prater’s office was across the hall from me. We worked together on developing the language for the Main Street Overlay District and over the years he would bounce ideas off me and worked through zoning situations together,” Schwartz said. “I never really thought about turning away from a field I spent 20 years in, but – and this will probably sound weird – but I enjoyed the complexities and challenges that were part of the Planning and Zoning realm. I initially told Tim over and over again that I was not interested in taking over his position, but I think over time I saw the benefits of switching my roles with the city.”

But the new position hasn’t been without its challenges.

“The most challenging part is the nuances and technical aspects of the job that I learned about in my training, but you really don’t understand until you are confronted with real-world situations,” Schwartz said. “My early training with Tim was baptism by fire to help me learn and at first I didn’t understand why. Now I do because book knowledge only gets you so far in this field. Thankfully I have a great staff who have years of experience that can help me better understand some of the little things.”

While the new position can be challenging, it has allowed Schwartz to have a more predictable schedule than the one that was required as Public Information Officer. That steadier schedule has given Schwartz more time to be able to send with his wife and two boys.

“I will be celebrating 20 years of marriage this fall and recently have more or less stepped away from coaching soccer so that I can be a proud parent on the sideline, though I have still been called upon to coach when needed,” Schwartz said. “I thoroughly enjoyed coaching middle school and high school teams before my children were born, but there was just something special about watching young kids play – especially when it is your child. But as they both grew up and started playing travel soccer, I wanted to be able to watch them both play and that wasn’t possible if I was coaching. So I have traded my coaching whistle for a comfy chair that I travel the state with just about every weekend. I spend five days a week at a soccer field between my 11-year-old and my 15-year-old, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Soccer holds a special place in Schwartz’s heart. He played collegiately at Easter Carolina University while pursuing his undergrad degree. While there, Schwartz learned skills that would translate well over to his professional life.

“I was one of 18 freshmen in the program…we all got up there before the rest of the students because of preseason. The first session of our three-a-day, we woke up at 6 a.m. and ran 12 miles. I had never run 12 miles straight on purpose in my life prior to that,” Schwartz said. “So I quickly had to learn discipline to balance schoolwork and the greater demands from being on a collegiate soccer team. Soccer also teaches you the importance of teamwork and being a captain in high school taught me about leadership.”

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