August/September Planner of the Month: Laura Techico

By Nikole Coleman, AICP

  • Current Position:  Senior Planner, City of Des Moines
  • Years in position: 3
  • Total years in planning: 14
  • Hobbies: Collecting futbol scarves
  • Weirdest non planning-related job: “Other duties as assigned.” As a planner in a smaller city, some of the most unexpected job activities have occurred during my time as a ‘planner.’ The best (and only occasionally worst) part of the job is not knowing what is going to happen when you walk in the door and never being pigeon-holed into one type of job activity. My job duties have included Recycling & Solid Waste Coordinator, interim NPDES Stormwater Permit Coordinator, staff BBQ coordinator…
  • Why did you choose the planning profession? Or did it choose you? I slid into the planning profession sideways. My undergraduate and graduate studies were environmental science and anthropology focused. I had an internship involving environmental permitting and found I was much more interested in the bigger picture. 
  • What part of your job do you find most rewarding? Working collaboratively with multiple disciplines, internal and applicant, throughout the life of a project (pre-application meeting to final inspections).   
  • What is the oddest thing a citizen has ever asked or said to you? Home occupation proposals are always the most interesting. I’ve had discussions on everything from a commercial kitchen in a residential garage to assembly of gun parts in a basement to a recording studio in an apartment.
  • What was your first planning-related job? Environmental planning and permitting with a state transportation department. 
  • What advice would you give a new planner? Know what you don’t know…and don’t try to go there. Customers will push you for an ‘answer’ at the counter. Be confident in conveying information you are sure of and in requesting additional time for research when needed.   
  • What are you looking for when you hire a planner? Someone who works well as part of a team, has good writing skills, and is comfortable and friendly speaking with customers at the front counter.
  • What do you wish you had known when you started your career? In planning, you really can have it all.  A commonality in most planners I know is that we are all wannabes in the best sense of the word. We are wannabe lawyers, surveyors, engineers, biologists, archeologists, architects, etc. While you may not attain technical expertise in more than one or two areas, you need to know enough of every associated discipline to know the significance of project components and to involve the right people in the review. Planners are also often the ones to coordinate and compile input from all reviewers into a consolidated, coherent response or decision.
  • If you were not a planner what profession would like likely be in?  Wildlife or wetland biologist…or garden putterer. 
Return to the August/September issue of The Washington Planner