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Special Feature

Planner and Commissioner — Why Serve on a Planning Commission?

Two years ago we asked 25 individuals who have served both as professional and citizen planners for their thoughts on a series of five short questions — and published their replies in the Planning Commissioners Journal. We received great feedback on what we titled “Sitting on Both Sides of the Table” — as a result, we decided to ask another seven  individuals who have also sat on both sides of the table for their thoughts. We hope you find what they have to say equally interesting.

For very short bios of the seven planners, see the sidebar to your left.

Planning commissioners sitting around a table

What got you interested in serving on your community’s planning commission?

Tony Robbins:

I wanted to learn more about the City. My professional work concentrated on the three surrounding counties, rarely did I have a Jacksonville planning project.

This was an opportunity to give back to the City and learn something at the same time.

Janet Agnoletti:

There were several reasons, including a desire to get involved in my new community, where I had moved with my family four years prior. As a regional planner, my interest was piqued by my town’s membership in a council of governments with an adopted regional land use plan.

I wanted to see first-hand how land use was being implemented in conjunction with that plan. And having served as staff to a city council committee elsewhere, I was interested in seeing the view from the other side of the table.

Pierre Martinez:

There were a few factors that persuaded me to apply for a planning commission appointment with my community.

Firstly, I believe strongly in community involvement. I have three school-aged children and I constantly preach to them the importance of community service. Therefore, this was an opportunity to role model what I was preaching to my children.

Secondly, I had previously worked as a practicing planner for the same agency (city) that I was seeking appointment as a commissioner. Therefore, I felt I had a strong understanding of the existing regulations governing the city’s development and I was familiar with various stakeholders (staff, developers, public, etc.).

Lastly, I wanted to play a role in shaping the development of the city I live in and I believed that I had a unique skill set to offer on the commission.

John Morgan:

I had worked in county government as a transportation planner for about 5 years administering programs for our MPO (metropolitan planning organization). I saw serving on my local planning commission as an opportunity to broaden my planning experience and become more familiar with local government. As a county planner, our local officials often looked at us as an outside ‘big government’ effort to take over their authority.

By serving on the local planning commission I was able to build a stronger relationship with the elected officials and educate them on best planning practices as a resident, not a bureaucrat.

Steve Ostaseski:

I wanted the chance to give back to my community.

Merrie Stillpass:

I felt that the members of the planning commission were not in touch with big picture thinking and were always in a reactionary mode. My training in planning brought a lot of ideas to the table. And the fact that my community doesn’t have a planner on staff, I was able to be of help in moving some initiatives forward.

Anna Choudhuri:

As a professional planner who has worked both in the public and private sectors, across California, Louisiana, New Mexico, and Arizona, I welcomed the opportunity to assist in the planning of my community from a decision-maker’s standpoint.