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Thread: Planning director advice?

  1. #1
    Cyburbian Seabishop's avatar
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    Planning director advice?

    What advice does Cyburbia have for those about to step into their first Planning Director role? Any pitfalls to avoid? Experience from people who aren't naturally "bossy" is especially helpful.

  2. #2
    Super Moderator luckless pedestrian's avatar
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    wow - I don't know where to begin

    I have been a director for 4 and a half years here with 2 and half staff members - before that I was the lone planner for 4 years in another town with shared admin, and before that a staff planner in a planning department for a town with my own admin -

    so, I would say, being firm in what you expect from people, consistent in your policies and do good work yourself is the best advice I can give - I try to explain why things are done a certain way so they understand it

    and it's okay to stay nice, what I learned is if I hire nice people they will like it that I'm nice and will do good work - bitter and angry people don't like nice people but why become like them, it won't make them a better employee or respect you -

    take Zucker's class or at least read his book (I wanted to take the class, but it didn't work in my schedule for this year)

    keep your head up, be proud of your work and you'll do great!

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Clore's avatar
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    ICMA (International City/County Management Association) has a good publication on their website. I believe it's called the First Time Administrator's Handbook. Look through ICMA.org. I've been thinking about the same things lately, having switched from a local govt role to municpal advising from a nonprofit. It's nice to hear dos and don'ts from those who are experienced. I can't say that I can offer much, but I have recently learned that residents will say one thing one day and then swear differently the next.
    Things are never as simple as they look.
    There are always at least two sides to every story.
    Gather as many resources and partners as you can.
    Get out and meet face to face with the local experts- other planners, regional agencies, nonprofits, counties, adjacent municipalities.
    Take lots of workshops- the info you get and the contacts you'll make are invaluable.
    Best of luck!!
    ...Moving at the speed of local government

  4. #4
    Cyburbian DrumLineKid's avatar
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    new director

    Some places prefer someone who keeps their head down and takes little initiative except the 'approved' efforts. My first (and only) such Director's job, I crossed an AICP on Council and got tired of trying to meet the AICP City Manager's busy work. I ended up leaving after 20 months. Some times I think I was a damn fool not to keep my head down, sometimes not.

    I did like the APA's New Directors Workshop at the annual conference. Real experiences, 30 something other new Directors or wannabes, a top quality group of facilitators, intense day. A little costly, but the trip to SF, CA was worth taking and Phila. is a pretty cool place to be.

    Good Luck, DLK
    Last edited by DrumLineKid; 11 Feb 2007 at 8:39 PM. Reason: PUNCTUATION

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Seabishop's avatar
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    Thanks, although I don't have such a position yet - just trying to think ahead in case the cookie crumbles favorably.

  6. #6
    Forums Administrator & Gallery Moderator NHPlanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Clore View post
    ICMA (International City/County Management Association) has a good publication on their website. I believe it's called the First Time Administrator's Handbook. Look through ICMA.org.
    Requires you to have a membership to view, BTW.

    Good info/advice here, keep 'em coming!
    "Growth is inevitable and desirable, but destruction of community character is not. The question is not whether your part of the world is going to change. The question is how." -- Edward T. McMahon, The Conservation Fund

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Clore's avatar
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    Ahh.. I couldn't remember. I do have a copy on my laptop if someone should need...
    ...Moving at the speed of local government

  8. #8
    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    Well....

    Maybe these....

    1. Don't hire people that you normally wouldn't hire because your in crunch or being pressured to fill a position.....it's always better to wait and surround yourself with good people.

    2. Deal with personnel issues as soon as you feel comfortable doing so, but get it done sooner rather than later.

    3. Take a personal interest in the budget and be aware of where you are at all times. Update elected official's early and often about going over budget and provide the reasons immediately. Be aware of the policy for exceeding a budgeted amount. As long as you keep people informed, the rest will take care of itself.

    4. Communicate even more with those you don't enjoy dealing with at an elected level.

    5. Conduct staff meetings at least twice a year.

    There are others......I'll think about it....
    Skilled Adoxographer

  9. #9
    Forums Administrator & Gallery Moderator NHPlanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Clore View post
    Ahh.. I couldn't remember. I do have a copy on my laptop if someone should need...
    PM me....I'm interested.
    "Growth is inevitable and desirable, but destruction of community character is not. The question is not whether your part of the world is going to change. The question is how." -- Edward T. McMahon, The Conservation Fund

  10. #10
    Cyburbian donk's avatar
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    Noblesse oblige
    They are your employees, not your friends, .but do be friendly towards them
    They are councillors, other directors not your friends, but do be friendly towards them.
    Ask yourself the first time you are pressured to cave and do, is this a battle worth losing and how does it set me up for the next one.
    Find a "body" on those above you ASAP and let them know you know where it is
    Too lazy to beat myself up for being to lazy to beat myself up for being too lazy to... well you get the point....

  11. #11
    Cyburbian nerudite's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by luckless pedestrian View post
    take Zucker's class or at least read his book (I wanted to take the class, but it didn't work in my schedule for this year)
    !
    Ditto... zucker's class is great. And take coaching and supervising courses. That's the hardest part.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian mike gurnee's avatar
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    Always remember that the secretary knows more than you do.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian SGB's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by The One View post
    1. Don't hire people that you normally wouldn't hire because your in crunch or being pressured to fill a position.....it's always better to wait and surround yourself with good people.
    One manager I worked for advised to always hire people who know more than you do.
    All these years the people said he’s actin’ like a kid.
    He did not know he could not fly, so he did.
    - - Guy Clark, "The Cape"

  14. #14
    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    Well....

    Quote Originally posted by SGB View post
    One manager I worked for advised to always hire people who know more than you do.
    I'm sure that isn't possible for SGB and The One, but the VAST majority of others should follow this rule......snicker.....he he he......
    Skilled Adoxographer

  15. #15
    Cyburbian Plus Whose Yur Planner's avatar
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    My first piece of advise is to make sure you really want to do it. Being a director is not easy and the stress factor does get racheted up. Outside of that, start out in a small jurisdiction. That way you learn the ropes in less stressful environment. Zucker is good along with the class that the University of Wisconsin puts on. Keep in mind that no one is born a leader, most must work at it,
    When did I go from Luke Skywalker to Obi-Wan Kenobi?

  16. #16
    Cyburbian Mark's avatar
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    Think

    1. Take your time and critically think through complex problems.
    2. Get use to making decisions quickly.
    3. You can change your opinion for valid reasons.
    4. It is ok to disagree with other people, just be human about it.
    Ohhhh Mama, can this really be the end!

  17. #17
    Cyburbian
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    Communicate, communicate, communicate. Planning is about getting things done. Getting things done requires developing relationships. Developing relationships requires communication.

  18. #18
    Cyburbian hilldweller's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by SGB View post
    One manager I worked for advised to always hire people who know more than you do.
    Actually, some managers have an "art of war" mentality where they won't seek to hire people that are more educated/qualified than they are for fear that they may be a threat to them. Granted this is a repulsive individual but more often than not these types exist in local government. Cover your ass, fly under the radar, point the finger at other departments, don't ever take the initative unless requested by higher-ups... These people are what give government a black eye.

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