Article

Three Questions for Three Planners

By: Mark Williams, City of Durango

Kevin Hall, Durango Assistant City Manager and Director of Community Development

Where did study planning and what was your first job?

Earned my Masters of Urban Planning from University of Wisconsin. My 1st job was as an economic development planner (6 years) working for the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission.

How has planning changed since you first started in the field?

While the basic tenants of good planning have not changed drastically since first entering the field, innovative planning strategies and new technologies have really raised the bar in the profession. Smart growth strategies, new urbanism (old urbanism), and the redevelopment of urban centers and past-their-prime industrial districts have been a real game changer for communities throughout the country. The planning field, in general, is becoming much more sophisticated and creative. The tools available to planners today provide so many more opportunities than were available in the past.

What advice do you have for young professionals getting started in the field?

Stay abreast of the evolving profession and don’t be afraid to try out of the box solutions; strive for excellence in all you do.

 

Reid Ross– Affordable Housing Developer, Developer for Durango Housing, retired

Where did study planning and what was your first job?

University of Chicago, Masters of Planning in the 1950’s. Back then there were only four schools with planning programs—Chicago, MIT, Harvard and I believe UCLA. My first job was in Providence, Rhode Island in 1955. The Federal Housing Act of 1949 created urban renewal programs and a lot of grant money for hiring. In Wisconsin I ran a loan program for rehabilitation of houses for people with low incomes at 80% AMI.

You hired many planners in your 30+ years as director—what qualities did you look for most in people?

Housing is about numbers, so I needed people who knew how to determine eligibility income, people with financial skills in general.

What advice do you have for young professionals getting started in the field?

They should have the Patience of Job. Also, to the extent possible that you can, establish some kind of relationship with the city leaders because you will be better off laying the groundwork for implementing plans. I have seen so many plans sit on a shelf and collect dust forever.

 

Heather Bailey, PhD

Where did you study and what was your first job?

Grad school at Middle Tennessee State in their public history public. My first job was a state and national register historian for Colorado’s Office of Archeaology and Historic Preservation. (Only the Feds drop the ‘a’, as in archeology, to save resources during World War II, as legend has it (laughs)).

You moved into planning from a different field. What skills did you find were the most transferable?

I came from preservation planning, a specialized field where we reviewed plans to make sure they met Federal standards. I am used to reviewing plans, based on regulations, which is transferable. What is different is that I do a lot less creative writing because I did a lot of stories, as in compelling stories for register nominations. Staff reports are more legalistic and making a case and less about telling a compelling story.

Planners vs. Historians – who wins?

Planners win in the short term, but historians will win in the long run because they control the story.
 

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