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Cook to keep planning reins

Long-time city planner Kathy Cook has been named planning director, a city release said Friday.

Cook has been serving as director on an interim basis since former planning lead Greg Byrne resigned in April.

She was chosen as Byrne’s successor from a pool of 28 candidates.

“Kathy’s knowledge of relevant policies and practices was unmatched,” Mayor Darlene Kordonowy said in the release. “She has an intimate understanding of the framework which guides the city in several key areas, including growth management, critical areas protection, and shoreline planning. Kathy has also won the respect of staff and community members alike for her thoughtful and professional approach to planning and public involvement.”

Cook, who wasn’t available for comment Friday, joined the planning department in 1995 on a temporary assignment in public outreach. She was promoted to long-range planner in 1998 and senior planner in 2005.

Before coming to Bainbridge Island, Cook spent 10 years doing regional transportation research at the University of California, Berkeley.

She inherits a department in flux; the city is in the midst of an 18-month code overhaul aimed at simplifying and reducing ambiguity in the document that governs development on the island.

That project was begun by Byrne, who left the city after a little more than a year on the job.

He was among a string of recent senior level management resignations at City Hall that were in part due to ongoing strife among leaders.

Former City Administrator Mary Jo Briggs left the city in January; former Deputy Finance Director Carol Badzik resigned last month.

The city conducted an internal search of Byrne’s successor, rather than enlisting a headhunter.

Cook and two other candidates were selected for final interviews with panels that included city staff, city councilors and community members.

City Administrator Mark Dombroski said the in-house search was done at about 10 percent of the cost of those used formerly to make high-profile hires.

He also said an in-house candidate offered the best path forward.

“Promoting a qualified internal candidate gives us a chance to preserve continuity, enrich our in-house knowledge base and make a statement about the way we value our staff,” Dombroski said. “As interim director, she has already made a significant impact – I look forward to her continued contributions.”

Byrne succeeded Jim Harris, who served as interim director following the 2006 retirement of Larry Frazier.

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