Planning gets new perspective

County officials say the new development services manager in the Department of Planning and Community Development is expected to bring a fresh approach to customer service and community relations.

Marsha Rowell comes to the county after a long career in the business world, most recently as a contracted quality assurance engineer with Boeing.

Planning Director Phil Bakke said he hopes her experience will help streamline and improve his department by bringing in a private-sector perspective. He said he's excited about the fact that Rowell is new to government.

"Traditionally, we've hired planners for that position," Bakke said Tuesday. "We wanted to get a different perspective. We were kind of hoping to hire someone from the private sector with a human relations background."

Rowell, who started Monday, replaces Deborah Little, who resigned after eight years and moved to Utah with her husband.

The development services manager is responsible for overseeing customer service programs, managing current planning and front counter staff. The position entails making sure the department maintains an effective policy of public relations and customer service, through giving out information about planning codes, and by speeding the permit application process.

Bakke said he is impressed with Rowell's management experience.

"We felt that she would compliment the management staff very nicely," he said. "She's kind of a no-nonsense person, who likes to cut through it and make a decision and get the job done."

Bakke added that Rowell "will be proactive for her customers."

One of Rowell's first tasks will be an extensive evaluation of how the planning department does business, from front counter customer service to how the department gets information to the public and processes such things as building applications. Bakke said he wants to streamline the application process by making it more accessible to the public, though without losing focus on the substance of the county's planning regulations.

"We anticipate quite a bit of redesigns to occur over the next six to 12 months," he said, adding that Rowell's experience should help eliminate some departmental red tape.

Overall, Bakke said he anticipates a positive revamping of procedures in planning, largely through the innovative ideas Rowell brings from the business world.

"I think it's going to be really interesting," Bakke said.

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