Planning Director Warren to resign in April

Stephanie Warren will resign effective April 25 as director the city’s Department of Planning and Community Development, a position she has held since before the effective date of all-island incorporation.

The resignation is contingent upon council approval of an agreement by which Warren would stay on part-time as a special assistant to the mayor through December 2004, which would entitle her to full retirement benefits, according to Mayor Darlene Kordonowy.

“This will be an opportunity for Stephanie to get a fresh start and remain part of the community, and will be an opportunity for us to take a look at that department,” Kordonowy said.

Kordonowy said she plans to appoint an interim director from off-island before Warren’s departure, possibly within the next two weeks. She then plans to meet with various constituencies, including the planning commission and the council, to determine what qualities are needed in a new director, then conduct a nationwide search.

Kordonowy said she has not yet determined whether to use a search firm in the effort to recruit a permanent director.

“The most important thing to me is not to rush the process, and find the best person for the job,” Kordonowy said.

The mayor said she is uncertain whether Warren’s current salary of some $86,000 will be enough to entice the caliber of applicant the city needs.

“We are taking a look at that,” she said.

Warren came to the city of Winslow Feb. 1, 1991 from Bellevue, where she had headed the Comprehensive Planning Division, and all-island incorporation became effective Feb. 28 of that year. She was hired the same day as city Administrator Lynn Nordby.

Warren said Tuesday that both the attractions and challenges of the job stem from the same thing – the active involvement of the citizens in the planning process.

“There is a lot of support for and interest in planning,” she said, “and we got to work on some exciting things with the Comprehensive Plan, the Winslow Master Plan and the non-motorized transportation plan.

“But on the other hand, everybody has an opinion and isn’t afraid to express it, and it’s hard to please 20,000 people.”

Kordonowy praised Warren’s pioneering role with the all-island city.

“She has done a good job for the citizens,” Kordonowy said. “She was involved in building the department, developing the Comprehensive Plan, going through one version of the Shoreline Master Plan and a later revision, and a revision of the comp plan.

“A heck of a lot of major work has come out of that department.”

In her part-time role, Warren will be assigned to special projects such as the non-motorized plan, the new Community Forestry Commission, and possibly rewriting some of the ordinances dealing with public works. She will work from her home, Kordonowy said.

“If we had to hire consultants or staff people to do those things, we would pay them twice as much as we’re paying Stephanie,” she said. “This will be a good deal financially for the city.”

Warren’s contract will go before the council tonight for approval.

While the mayor said that significant restructuring of the department is possible, it will not begin until a permanent director is on board.

“We will look to the new person to provide feedback on what we need to do,” she said.

Council land-use committee chair Michael Pollock said he thinks the new director needs “good people skills, emotional intelligence and strong leadership capabilities.”

The leadership and management qualities, he said, might be more important than the technical planning background.

“We also need someone who understands the values of the community,” Pollock said. “There are so many interpretations that the director is called upon to make.”

Warren said the community and council sometimes need to be more clear about their own values.

“We are trying to put half the growth in Winslow,” she said, “but we still hear a lot of criticism from people who think the development in Winslow is too much. Clarity in terms of policies and regulations would help, and the city needs to be united in support of what we’re doing.”

regulations that the department had to follow, and sometimes people didn’t want to hear that.”

Sutton said that because of the level of criticism, some in the planning department developed a defensiveness that aggravated the situation.

“Many times the regulations are ambiguous or conflicting, calling for an interpretation from the director,” he said. “Instead of explaining the reasoning behind the interpretation, some of the department, including Stephanie, would say ‘this is how it is,’ without explanation, and people didn’t like that.”

Sutton said different personalities can make a substantial difference, citing Public Works Director Randy Witt’s ability to deal with critical comments and still maintain broad public confidence in his department.

“You’re always going to get criticism from outside,” Sutton said. “The way a decision is presented is the touchstone.”

Sutton said the beleaguered nature of the department may complicate the search for Warren’s replacement.

“When candidates come in and talk to the staff, they will likely get a picture of an ugly situation,” he said. “We really need a water-walker, and while those people exist, they may be hard to find.”

The department has been the target of persistent criticism from both the development and environmental communities, a situation that former Mayor Dwight Sutton said made Warren’s job very difficult.

“People don’t like to hear ‘no’ when they have what they think is a pretty good idea,” he said. “But there were federal, state and local

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