Planner Profile: Mike Odren

Current Position: Landscape Architect, Land Use Planner, Associate Principal

Total years in planning: 25 practicing Landscape Architecture, 16 years as a Land Use Planner

Hobbies: Acoustic guitar; making yard art, house décor and lamps out of musical instruments and similar objects; attending music concerts; camping; gardening.

Hometown: Vancouver, WA

Favorite Places: Dosewallips State Park on Hood Canal, in a concert hall or music venue, anywhere on a beach, and my own backyard.

Why did you choose a career in planning? It was a natural segue from practicing landscape architecture to play a larger role in the design (both site and landscape), entitlement and management of a project (residential subdivision, commercial, industrial, institutional, park, etc.) from concept to construction.

Why did you decide to be a planner in Washington? I have lived here my entire life and most of our clients we serve do work in Southwest Washington.

What projects/initiatives are you currently working on? I am currently working on a large Planned Residential Development in Camas along with a few residential short plats, a couple of shoreline projects, a 108-unit apartment development and a couple of small commercial projects, all in Southwest Washington.

What was your first planning related job? Working on a Master Plan, presentation boards and application package for the Bircher Business Center in Vancouver, WA for my current employer, Olson Engineering, Inc.

What advice would you give a new planner? Try to understand both the private and public sides of planning, particularly from a development review standpoint. And try not to be adversarial; we all have the same goal to see a project achieve success.

What do you wish you had known when you started your career? The importance of learning the business side of private practice sooner than I have.

If you were not a planner what profession would you likely be in? I have no idea, as I had wanted to be a landscape architect since I was about 15 or 16 (started mowing lawns at age 13, worked in a nursery at age 17 and did 10 years of landscape construction and maintenance), and as that has transitioned into being a planner, I can’t think of anything else I’d like to do that is as engaging, challenging and interesting as what I do now. 

Do you have any favorite online sources related to planning that you’d like to share, and/or planners (historical or present) that have inspired your work? Code! Code! Code! Can’t do anything without knowing the code!

Return to the September/October issue of the Washington Planner