March Planner of the Month: Jenni Anderson

By Nikole Coleman, AICP

When asked what the weirdest job Stevens County Supervising Planner Jenni Anderson has ever held, her answer may or may not surprise the planners reading this article. She has never been a Bingo Manager, Pet Food Tester, or Gumologist. She considers Planner to be weirdest job she has held, likely due to the complexity of working in a rural county facing the challenges of implementing the Growth Management Act. This is no small feat and urban planners may not understand the complexities of balancing the dynamics of planning within a rural community. If not, challenge yourself at the next APA Washington conference to sit down with a rural planner like Jenni over coffee and have a chat.

Read on to learn in her own words how after 27 years in the profession Jenni continues to take on new and complex tasks with an attitude of, “Okay, I think I can do that.” And without knowing it, Jenni may have just coined the new planner motto statewide.

  • Why did you choose the planning profession? Or did it choose you?
    The planning profession chose me.  Originally, I worked for the Stevens County Assessor in the segregation department. In that position, I processed finalized subdivisions to place them on the tax rolls. When the planning job of “Plat Administrator” came open, I decided to apply in order to explore another side of creating a subdivision. Since then, I have been challenged into new responsibilities. In the ebb and flow of personnel changes and new legislative actions, I found myself saying “Ok. I think I can do that” and simply doing whatever is needed at that time.
  • What is the oddest thing a citizen has ever asked or said to you?
    After this many years, it is hard to settle on one thing. However, I did receive an offer from a person who wanted me to come live at their house so that I could “enjoy” the barking dogs next door.
  • What part of your job do you find most rewarding?
    My favorite thing is helping applicants through the permit maze in order to fulfill their dream.
  • What was your first planning related job?
    As mentioned above, my first planning job was “Plat Administrator” for Stevens County. My job duties were to process and approval all short and long subdivision applications.
  • What advice would you give a new planner?
    Listen. Listen. Listen. Learn to figure out what the customer really wants—which is not always the same thing as what they are saying.
  • What are you looking for when you hire a planner?
    A person who fits into a rural lifestyle.
  • What do you wish you had known when you started your career?
    If I had known that the Growth Management Act was coming with all of its challenges and changes, I do not know if I would have said “yes” to the job.

  • If you were not a planner what profession would like likely be in?
    An elementary school teacher.
  • Have you always been a planner in WA? If not, what do you find different or unique about being a planner in WA?
    I am a native to Stevens County. So, Washington planning is my only experience. However, it is unique and challenging to implement legislation in a rural setting. 

Return to the March issue of The Washington Planner