Planner Spotlight: Dinah Reed

Current Position: Senior Project Planner for Yakima County
Total years in planning: 7
Hobbies: Hiking, attending cultural events, sewing, and going to yard/estate sales
Hometown: Monmouth, Illinois
Favorite Places: Chicago’s Loop, Cape Blanco, Wilridge Winery, Mountain tops, backroads of Vermont

Why did you choose a career in planning? When I studied Geography as an undergrad I loved learning how the built environment came to be historically and how it evolved over hundreds of years. I also wanted to be part of a process that would help to preserve and conserve the environment. I was introduced to the field of planning and realized it would be a logical career choice that could influence both the built and natural landscapes, so I decided to earn a degree in Urban and Regional Planning. I enjoy working for the government and being a part of the many different cogs that turn the wheel of process – and helping property owners, developers, and professionals with land use options. 

Why did you decide to be a planner in Washington? After earning my Master in Urban and Regional Planning at Eastern Washington University, I landed my first job in Vermont where I lived for four years. Most of my work there entailed long range planning projects that protected the natural resources of the region. There was perpetual involvement with the public and the planning commissions of 25 towns for which I worked. However, my office was quasi-judicial and my work was non-regulatory. Although I loved working in Vermont, I had a strong desire to further my career by moving into a position where I would be working with regulations. I missed living in the west and wanted to return to Washington so I applied for jobs here and landed my current planning position for Yakima County over three years ago. 

What projects/initiatives are you currently working on? Yakima County recently adopted the Unified Land Development Code Title 19 in October 2015, which combined three of the former ordinances: Unincorporated Area zoning ordinance, UGA ordinance, and Subdivision ordinance. I am involved with tracking sections of the code that need to be edited and re-written as we discover problems implementing the new code, particularly as they pertain to the UGA. Other work includes: dairy and feedlot operations in Yakima’s lower valley and the potential adverse impacts to water quality and water quantity, minor rezones, and a newly assigned Cowiche Canyon Trail Project expansion working in collaboration with the City of Yakima, plus numerous subdivisions. 

What was your first planning related job? I was employed as a Planner for Windham Regional Commission in Brattleboro, VT. Seventy percent of my work was in hazard mitigation planning and floodplain management writing hazard mitigation plans for 25 towns in southeast Vermont. Other projects included updates to zoning ordinances and Town Plans, and I lead the Natural Resources Planning Committee for southeast Vermont. 

What advice would you give a new planner? If you see what looks like a great job, don’t be afraid to move. It can be very rewarding. Keep abreast of important projects happening in the other divisions where you work.

What do you wish you had known when you started your career? That being mentored and trained in the beginning may not be part of your employer’s plan! Confidence in yourself is essential. 

If you were not a planner what profession would you likely be in? I would own a delicatessen that had a community space with a wood burning stove. 

Do you have any favorite websites/tools/blogs that relate to planning or your job that you’d like to share? I read articles from the Washington Policy Center, Project for Public Spaces, and MRSC.

Return to the July/August issue of The Washington Planner