Planner Spotlight: Donna deBit

Current Position: Assistant Planner II at City of Spokane
Total years in planning: 9 years
Hobbies: Baking, running (to offset the baking), and skiing!
Hometown: Finley, WA (rural community right outside of Kennewick, WA)
Favorite Places: Priest Lake,ID& Thailand (specifically Chiang Mai)

Why did you choose a career in planning? While I was a student clerk for the City of Kennewick Building and Planning Department in 2008 I was exposed to the Planning profession. I was drawn to the problem-solving aspect of Planning, and the collaboration with other development professionals (Architecture, Engineering, etc.). My co-workers let my reigns loose a bit and I got to do a little plan review, so that got me hooked! I also was able to pick the brains of the Planners there and really see the career through their eyes (the good and the bad!). I immediately gained (and still have) a high respect for those in the profession!

Why did you decide to be a planner in Washington? I love Washington. I was born and raised here, and love the access to outdoor activities. I have enjoyed the experience of working for multiple jurisdictions in the state and love that from small-town West Richland to the big City of Seattle, they all have protections in place to keep our environment and shorelines protected from frivolous & harmful development. It’s so great to work in a State that is on the same page in that aspect!

What projects/initiatives are you currently working on? In addition to the ongoing development projects, I’m working with a great group of folks here at the City of Spokane to implement a new process for Electronic Plan Review. I’m also reevaluating the Short Term Rental regulations to better match the demand that we are seeing. Outside of work, I sit on the board for the APA Inland Empire Section and we are consistently working on collaborating with the Urban and Regional Planning Students at EWU to provide scholarships and mentoring opportunities.

What was your first planning-related job? While working on my BA in Urban and Regional Planning at Eastern Washington University (Go Eags!), the City of Kennewick welcomed me back during the summers to intern with them and help with GIS projects, annexations, and updates to the Comp. Plan. After I Graduated they let me come back full time. It’s safe to say they raised me as a Planner!

What advice would you give a new planner? Keep an open mind — there are so many paths the Planning Profession can take you, so try a few before you settle. You might be surprised to see what you’re actually passionate about! And don’t be afraid to move around if your personal life allows it.

What do you wish you had known when you started your career? Not to take things personally. If a policy that you’ve been working on doesn’t get adopted, or a project you headed up doesn’t get approved, it’s ok! It’s not you, it just wasn’t a good fit for the majority.

If you were not a planner what profession would like likely be in? I love airplanes, so probably a flight attendant or an air traffic controller!

Do you have any favorite websites/tools/blogs that relate to planning or your job that you’d like to share? I really like, and if I need a good laugh I go to the ‘Planning Peeps’ Facebook page!

Return to the September/October issue of The Washington Planner