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Thread: Texas planning

  1. #1

    Texas planning

    So, I'm living in Dallas and been applying for various positions around the Metroplex, but also those that I find elsewhere in the state (and elsewhere, of course).

    Right now I'd be considered a beginning planner, although I have experience working with regional planning agencies (just in a non-planner capacity) and with local governments on graduate projects.

    I suppose I'm trying to recenter myself here -- any advice on professional networks other than Texas APA, certifications especially in demand, or private companies that hire planners in the state? Naturally a Google search turns up some information, but sometimes an insider point of view is rather helpful -- and as my alma mater is in a different state there aren't quite as many contacts here through that.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by laughingllama View post
    So, I'm living in Dallas and been applying for various positions around the Metroplex, but also those that I find elsewhere in the state (and elsewhere, of course).
    The advice is the same for everyone, for the past year-plus and for the next several years at least, Tixes is no different from anywhere else: expand your search and be prepared to move anywhere in the country if you want to work.

    Maybe I'll make a keyboard macro.

  3. #3
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Normally I blast the jobs I frequrntly see advertised in the Rio Grande Valley for their notoriously low pay (mostly under $30K). However, the low salaries and less-than-desirable location may also mean there's a lack of applicants, so they'll be more likely to consider a young planner with limited or no experience. Not the greatest situation to do a resume building two-and-out or three-and-out, but still ...

    I also hear there's an open position in Lufkin ...

    Having a short tenure in Texas, I found that the planning environment there can be rather schizophrenic. The environment is generally very pro-growth, the state loves their highways, and the signs and billboards ... oy vey. However, many communities are open to working with cutting-edge tools such as form-based codes; even El Paso adopted the SmartCode. Edge cities are giving way to new downtowns. Architectural regulation is also gaining ground.

    Cyburbia has a lot of Texas planners, and they'll probably be along soon to offer their advice.
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  4. #4
    Quote Originally posted by ColoGI View post
    The advice is the same for everyone, for the past year-plus and for the next several years at least, Tixes is no different from anywhere else: expand your search and be prepared to move anywhere in the country if you want to work.

    Maybe I'll make a keyboard macro.


    Yes, thats why I said I am applying for positions elsewhere as well. I'm more than aware the job market sucks.

    Quote Originally posted by Dan View post
    Normally I blast the jobs I frequrntly see advertised in the Rio Grande Valley for their notoriously low pay (mostly under $30K). However, the low salaries and less-than-desirable location may also mean there's a lack of applicants, so they'll be more likely to consider a young planner with limited or no experience. Not the greatest situation to do a resume building two-and-out or three-and-out, but still ...

    I also hear there's an open position in Lufkin ...

    Having a short tenure in Texas, I found that the planning environment there can be rather schizophrenic. The environment is generally very pro-growth, the state loves their highways, and the signs and billboards ... oy vey. However, many communities are open to working with cutting-edge tools such as form-based codes; even El Paso adopted the SmartCode. Edge cities are giving way to new downtowns. Architectural regulation is also gaining ground.

    Cyburbia has a lot of Texas planners, and they'll probably be along soon to offer their advice.
    Thanks for the Lufkin tip. I've noticed that about the small towns -- I've certainly received more "noise" from small town positions I've applied for than the ones in the metros. I figure even if I would rather stay in the big cities, its good to get the experience in the field -- and hope to either move back to the cities later or maybe I'll grow to love Little Town, USA.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian TexanOkie's avatar
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    I've been a planner for a bedroom suburb of Austin for 4 years, and we're one of those communities Dan mentioned that is pro-growth but trying new progressive ideas like form-based codes and increased architectural regulation. There is a large trend, especially in the Austin area for public sector folks and Fort Worth for private sector folks, for CNU-minded planners. I know at least one city government in south-central Texas where they place greater emphasis on CNU membership, even the new CNU-A certification, than they do APA. That might be one place to start.

    Another area of planning in Texas that is different than a lot of other places is the emphasis on leadership and/or administrative skills on top of planning, and how much many city manager's offices are involved in the planning issues - especially in smaller cities. It might be useful to look into a Certified Public Manager certificate or program, or some other way to pick up some extra skills that a MPA would have provided that an MURP would not have.

  6. #6
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by TexanOkie View post
    Another area of planning in Texas that is different than a lot of other places is the emphasis on leadership and/or administrative skills on top of planning
    This was a bit of culture shock for me when I worked in Texas. There seems to be a pervasive "cult of leadership" in the state that I didn't encounter elsewhere. Leadership seminars, leadership meetings, leadership and management book-of-the-week tomes we were encouraged or required to read, and so on. There seemed to be a more "corporate" philosophy than other states where I worked.

    I posted this before; in the not-too-distant past, I applied for a planning job with a suburb of Dallas. I was told I made the first cut, and given a candidate questionnaire with 23 questions, none of them related to planning. They were mostly either related to leadership, management, or else intended to dig up information that might be embarrassing for the city if the new planner was publicly vetted at a later date. A few examples:

    2. Please explain why you left your last three positions.

    6. When we conduct a comprehensive background and reference check, what are we going to find in your background that you think warrants additional explanation?

    9. What are the differences between leading and managing?

    11. What homework have you done on the city, the team, and the position?

    12. What will we find in a Google search of press coverage that may be controversial in your background.

    17. What areas do you perceive that you need to be working on to become a stronger leader?

    18. Please describe your philosophy and approaches to building a strong team environment and motivating your employees to perform at their highest levels.

    19. Please provide an affirmation that you have disclosed all issues, instances and details that if they came out might be embarrassing or awkward for the city about your past.
    Where I work now, in upstate New York, the word "leadership" hasn't come up once at work, nor has any business jargon or cliches.
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  7. #7
    Cyburbian
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    I moved down to Houston from Wichita this past February,although I am currently unemployed as a planner. Houston is trying hard to correct the mistakes of the past in terms of uncontrolled sprawl and design codes. Having grown up and worked in planning in Chicago, which is at the opposite side of the spectrum, Houston has a lot of catching up to do. I have done some pro-bono work, which led to a face-to-face interview a few months ago, and I spoke with a few consultants who want me on retainer for upcoming work.

    Katy, TX is seeing a bunch of growth and there is new construction BUT just like other metro areas I think it could hit a ceiling in a few years if there are no controls. People are very friendly here, much like my fellow Chicagoans, but there really isn't an easily visible middle class: you are either poor or very rich, and what IS the middle class is spread out in the suburbs. Houston APA is very welcoming and supportive, which is very different from my years volunteering with ILAPA.

    You have to love the sun, heat, and humidity to brave it down here, so it's not for everyone. I was just outside suntanning and it's a gorgeous 94 degrees without a cloud in the sky. July and August are the worst months with plenty of days in the 90s and 100s. There are bugs everywhere and you usually sweat nonstop for most of the summer due to the humidity (or so I have heard).

    Planners will work in DFW OR Houston, not both. There are fewer planning firms that will do work in both cities. Houston (and alot of Texas) did not suffer as badly because of the recession. The City of Houston had some layoffs and schools are still cutting back. However,there are a FEW jobs popping up now and then. I don't think it's more and less different than many other metro areas. Be prepared to look off the beaten path for more opportunities. I moved down here partly because of the sunny weather. I am keeping my options open with planning but I am also looking to move into a completely different, unrelated career path.

    As many of you know, Houston is the only large metro area with no formal zoning ordinance. They have a complicated system of deed restrictions which affords an interesting mixture of apartments next to mcmansions next to skyscrapers. They don't believe in street lights just giant electric poles. They are not at the forefront of cutting edge planning methods but are making some progress, and I'm okay with that.
    "This is great, honey. What's the crunchy stuff?"
    "M&Ms. I ran out of paprika."

    Family Guy

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