The Ponce Inlet Town Council appointed Mike Disher, assistant director of planning and development, to the position of director following the official retirement of Aref Joulani.
Town Manager Jeaneen Witt highly recommended Mr. Disher for the position, which begins March1, during the council’s December meeting after announcing Mr. Joulani’s departure within the next two months. “It is my pleasure to make this recommendation,” she declared.
“After 13 years of dedicated service to the town as the director of planning and development, Mr. Joulani announced his retirement,” Ms. Witt said. “In prudent preparation for his departure, the town hired Mr. Michael Disher as assistant director of the department.”
Mr. Disher has been assistant director of planning and development since 2018. He was a senior planner for the town from 2011 to 2016.
“He has had the opportunity to work with Mr. Joulani on many of the town’s projects and helped the department catch up on many of its goals, and establish and meet some new ones,” Ms. Witt said.
Mr. Disher left the town for two years, working as a planner for Volusia County. “There, in addition to handling my share of routine planning applications and customer service, I was responsible for special planning projects – basically the complex tasks no one else wanted to tackle or had time to do,” he said.
Mr. Disher, who now has 22 years experience in urban planning, earned a bachelor's degree in geography and global policy studies from the University of Georgia and a master's degree in city, urban and regional planning from the Georgia Institute of Technology. He also earned the certified planner certificate.
Mr. Disher, who lived in Florida until the age of six, moved with his family to Alabama then Georgia, where he attended high school and college. “After graduation, I thought it would be fun to live by the beach for a few years and moved to Daytona Beach. But after having kids and a few career promotions, I wound up staying, and moved to my current home in Port Orange in 2003,” he said.
His first position in Florida was as an entry-level planner with the City of Port Orange, which he stumbled upon completely by accident.
“When searching for places to apply, I dialed 411 looking for the City of Daytona Beach. I had not even heard of Port Orange before, but that’s the number I was given,” he said. “That mistake worked out great for me though, and I stayed with Port Orange for 12 years, eight of those as planning and development manager.”
Mr. Disher lives with his two sons, daughter and girlfriend. “My sons are both almost out of the nest, although that has been delayed somewhat by the pandemic,” he said. “My daughter is quite a bit younger, just having experienced her second Christmas.”
Mr. Disher’s father still lives in metro Atlanta, while his sister and her family live in Silicon Valley near San Jose, Calif.
He was enthusiastic about his next job.
“The chance to earn a position as director has long been a dream of mine, but I know I wouldn’t be here without the support of my family, town staff and the community,” he said. “Never have I worked for a place with such passionate, educated, and accomplished citizens. I believe that as long as people continue to care, we can be successful. Ponce Inlet truly is a special place, and I hope to be here for many years to come.”
Ms. Witt told council members she enjoyed working with Mr. Disher and found him to be extraordinary in his field. “I know our department heads feel the same. In his role as the liaison to the planning board, the relationships of confidence he has built with members is highly evident, and I believe this also applies with this council,” she added.