Director, Planning Department, City of Omaha
James R. Thele is currently the Director of the Planning Department for the City of Omaha. He is responsible for the overall management of the 116-position staff in the Urban Planning, Building and Development, and Housing and Community Development Divisions, including: long-range master planning, capital improvement programing, annexation studies, transportation planning, current project zoning and subdivision reviews and approvals, urban design project reviews, community and neighborhood design plans, building permit issuance and construction inspection, building contractor licensing, rehabilitation and redevelopment project planning and implementation, property maintenance code enforcement and administration of the planning board, construction trade boards, historic preservation commission and zoning and regulatory appeal boards.
Thele began his professional career at the Iowa Northland Regional Council of Governments in 1974, rising to the position of Senior Planner. In 1979 he accepted a position with the City of Omaha, becoming the director of the Mayor’s Office of Economic Development. In 1984 he became the inaugural director of the Omaha Small Business Network initiating the operation of a small business incubator program. He returned to the City of Omaha in 1990 and subsequently became the Assistant Planning Director for Housing and Community Development prior to accepting this current position in 2013.
Thele has served the public for 40 years in every aspect of urban planning and in operating and administering economic development and community development programs. He has a B.A. degree in Geography and History with graduate work in Real Estate, Economics and Urban Geography.