June/July Planner of the Month: Ardele Steele

By Nikole Coleman, AICP

  • Quick facts
    Current Position: Planning and Community Development Director, City of Zillah
    Years in position: 1.3
    Total years in planning: 10
    Hobbies: Reading Sci-Fi & historical books, Walking, Cooking
    Weirdest non planning related job: I worked for Inflation Systems Inc. in Moses Lake as a propellant press machine operator. I made the propellant and pressed it into tablets for car air bags.
  • Why did you choose the planning profession? Or did it choose you? 
    I think it choose me. I had graduated from Washington State University in 2003 with a double BA in History and Political Science.  After 6 months in the working world, I was looking into grad schools, not fully sure if I wanted to attend grad school, law school, or something else. When my mom got sick of hearing me grumble, she tossed the Eastern Washington catalogue to me. It happened to land on the Urban & Regional Planning page. After a long discussion with Dr. Gabor Zovanyi, the rest is history.

  • What do you find most challenging about your work? 
    Trying to shape a growing but small community under state & federal regulations while respecting the peace and quiet, small town feel.  The community may not always agree with the state and national planning policies or other focus areas. As my clients, I work for them so I always need to find a balance.

  • What was your first planning related job? 
    I was a paid Intern for the Spokane County Emergency Management in 2005 & 2006. I was part of the team that constructed and wrote the Spokane County Multi-Jurisdiction All Hazard Mitigation Plan in 2006 and later adopted FEMA Region X in May of 2007.

  • What advice would you give a new planner? 
    Realize that it takes time, trust, and education (both ways) before things can happen. 

  • What are you looking for when you hire a planner? 
    Political savvy.The ability to stand their ground, but know when to compromise, knows the community they work for and what works and what won't. They have good communication skills and can take complex legal, engineering tech and architecture terms and communicate that to everyday citizens and politicians. One of the best traits is being able to think visually. It has been the most important skills I have learned and utilized in my career. 

  • What do you wish you had known when you started your career? 
    Civil Engineering and Architectural knowledge.  

  • If you were not a planner what profession would like likely be in?
    Lawyer or History Professor.

  • Have you always been a planner in WA? If not, what do you find different or unique about being a planner in WA? 
    Yes, I have only worked only in Washington State as a planner.

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