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The Effective Planning Commissioner

How to Recognize and Relieve Burnout

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Which kind of planning commissioner are you? An old-timer who has served for years but still has the energy and interest you had at the beginning of your tenure; a new member eager to learn and contribute; someone who has served awhile and still feels there is much to learn; or, no matter what your tenure, are you bored, beleaguered, or just burned out?

To be honest, it is impossible to expect every commission meeting to be exciting and challenging, but if you rarely find them stimulating, you have three choices: change your attitude, try to change how things are done, or resign. The following are some common complaints — and suggestions for dealing for dealing with them.

Different players / same old debates. This time, it may be Jane Smith instead of John Jones who is complaining about a seemingly onerous planning regulation, but the issue is likely to be somewhat the same. It is easy to be bored or disinterested if you approach the issue from a purely regulatory standpoint where there is a “right” and a “wrong.” But there is another way. Put yourself in the applicant’s shoes, remembering that one of your major contributions to good planning is your layperson’s perspective. …

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photo of Elaine CoganElaine Cogan, founding principal of the Portland, Oregon planning and communications firm of Cogan Owens Cogan, has consulted for more than 36 years with communities undertaking strategic planning and visioning processes. Cogan has been honored for her work on a variety of citizen involvement projects.

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