Planner of the Month: Ryan Hughes, AICP

  • Current Position: Senior Planner – Studio Cascade Inc. (Community Planning and Design Consultants) – Spokane, WA 
  • Years in position: 8 Months (0.666 years)
  • Total years in planning: 12 Years 
  • Hobbies: Travel (22+ countries). Marathon training (finished my first marathon (Portland) this year...yeah!). Maintaining a beautiful, yet needy, 106-year-old house on the lower South Hill in Spokane. Transporting two highly-energetic toddlers to nearby parks. Cycling. Noodling on guitar and mandolin.
  • Weirdest non-planning related job: ‘Burrito artist’ – as in, actually making burritos…I was also once offered the role as “roller skating rink DJ.” 
  • What is a typical work day like for you? As a private practice planner, I spend my day responding to our clients’ needs. Clients’ needs range from preparing plans, organizing community outreach and public involvement, coordination with stakeholders, and working alongside consultant team partners. 
  • Why did you choose the planning profession? Or did it choose you? I chose to become a planner, but after 12 years, the profession keeps choosing me. I trace the genesis of my career to volunteering in rural villages in Southeast Asia in my early 20s. It was there that I began seeking a course of study and work to be best equipped to help solve fundamental issues of extreme poverty and injustice.

    The wide spectrum of opportunities under the planning umbrella keeps my passion firmly lit. I love the challenge of creating places; increasing the quality of life for residents. I enjoy planning in both the realm of policy development, strategic and comprehensive planning as well as in “real-time” plan implementation and current development. I can’t imagine doing anything else. 
  • What part of your job do you find most rewarding? One of the most rewarding parts of the job is seeing the “light” turn on with community members, partners, and clients. Planning seeks to articulate a community’s vision for itself. Once that vision is developed and a viable pathway to realizing the vision has been discovered, the excitement and anticipation is palpable. In short, there is no limit what an empowered community can accomplish. It has been an honor to be a part of empowering and contributing to positive spirals of community success. 
  • What is the oddest thing a citizen has ever asked or said to you? “Sign the permit, or call the Sheriff…one of the two is happening today.” (said at a county planning permit counter in rural Oregon) 
  • What was your first planning related job? As a student in Eastern Washington’s Urban and Regional Planning program, I had the opportunity to work for a downtown revitalization project modeled after the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s “Main Street Program.” This was a great introduction to the profession. It combined technical furthering of streetscape improvements, non-profit and grants management, along with community organizing and economic development. 
  • What advice would you give a new planner? Grow a thick skin. Quickly! 
  • What are you looking for when you hire a planner? I would look for the parallel ability to articulate the big picture of community vision along with administering mundane technical requirements such as permitting, code development, and public noticing. Specializing in other skillsets is imperative, such as GIS, environmental expertise, graphic design, and economic analysis. 
  • What do you wish you had known when you started your career? I wish I had known more about communicating with associated disciplines such as engineers, architects, economists, and biologists. 
  • If you were not a planner what profession would like likely be in? UN economic affairs officer, itinerant preacher or jazz musician…

Return to the November/December issue of The Washington Planner