Thursday's snow was a reminder that winter and ski season are just around the corner, prompting us to get out for a long bike ride from Driggs, ID up to Grand Targhee Ski Resort in Caribou-Targhee National Forest. The elevation in the valley is about 6,200' and we climbed to an elevation of about 7,400' at the top of the hill. Grand Targhee's summer season just ended and the winter season begins in November, so we had almost exclusive use of Ski Hill Road leading up to the resort.
September 26th - first snowfall on the valley floor!
A snapshot from my first weekend in Teton Valley - heading home from an evening bike ride. Just outside of the Victor city limits, looking west toward the Big Hole Mountains.
The Teton Valley News also published an introductory article. This was more of a Q&A format, which I liked because I feel like I really got to express my core values and beliefs and provide context by sharing my background. I touched on everything from my time volunteering with AmeriCorps to studying neuroscience in Austin to my philosophy on inclusion and equality in community development. Thanks TVN for providing this opportunity!
Both of the local newspapers published stories introducing the new Victor city planner today, the photo on the left is the snapshot used in the Valley Citizen, and here is a link to their article: "Planning means people"
I'm happy to see they included a quote that I feel really represents me:
"It’s been a long journey for me as a planner,” said Skelton. “It’s the people aspect of planning that is important. I thought design would change the world, but you can’t have a place without people. I found it easier to grasp that in a small town than in a big place.”
It's official - I have been offered and accepted a city planning job and am moving to Idaho's Teton Valley to work for the City of Victor, Idaho. Victor is located at the base of the western slope of the Teton Mountain Range, just a few miles from the Wyoming/Idaho border. The valley takes its name from the Teton Mountain Range, and is also bordered by the Snake River Range to the southwest and the Big Hole Mountain Range to the west.
While the population is small - approximately 1,928 as of the 2010 census - the planning issues are immense. Victor is located in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, which is the last nearly in tact ecosystem in earth's northern hemisphere. Victor is also a town whose first permanent European-American settlers traveled to the area by horse drawn covered wagons and homesteaded, forging a rural agricultural way of life in an arid climate where it snows 6 months of the year. From approximately 1900 to about the 1990s generations that descended from the homesteaders built a strong and vibrant community. From the 1990s onward the population has more than doubled each decade. Granted, the population of the city was 292 in 1990, but by 2000 the size of the city swelled to about 850, and more than doubled to 1,900 by 2010.
The rapid growth of the city (and of the rural surrounding county and two other cities, Driggs and Tetonia) has huge implications for the ecosystem as well as the character of the community. Guiding growth in a way that respects and protects the natural environment is already a priority to the city. I'll be the second Planner on staff and bring a focus on community - respecting and honoring the community that has been in the valley for generations while working to build a sense of community that encompasses newcomers and old timers equally. I'll be responsible for everything from community outreach and engagement/government 2.0 to planning assisting with economic development for recreation/sustainability tourism and transitioning the city to a Form Based Code (with the help of Code Studios out of Austin) to day-to-day permit approvals.
If anyone would have asked me a year ago if I could envision myself leaving the urban Cincinnati communities of Over-the-Rhine and Brighton/West End that I have poured so much of myself into over the past few years, without flinching I would have said no way, inconceivable. But I am always striving to learn and grow, to see things from other points of view, to share what I know with others, and over the past year my mind was opened to the possibility of contributing my strengths and skills in new contexts. I was inspired by friends and their leaps of faith that scattered them around the continent and globe, I was inspired by the SpringBoard small business/entrepreneurship program through ArtWorks that I completed this winter/spring, and the countless workshops, lectures, trainings and community dialogues I attended.
So when I was in Teton Valley last April on vacation with my husband and ended up talking community development with the owner of a local bicycle shop Fitzgerald's Bicycles, who happens to be a former mayor of the city, one thing lead to another and I ended up talking with the current mayor and the director of the city's planning department. Fast forward a few months and I was invited to apply for a newly created position in the planning department. A few weeks ago I found myself formally interviewing for the position, then patiently but anxiously awaiting a decision, and then last week accepting an offer to join the city staff, and in a few days I hit the road full of excitement and anticipation.
One of my favorite quotes, from my favorite book (Song of the Lark) by my favorite author (Willa Cather) is "That is happiness, to be dissolved into something complete and great". From Austin, Texas to Istanbul to New York to Over-the-Rhine to "Wydaho" wherever I go I seek to dissolve into something greater than myself
My first year of managing interns for Over-the-Rhine Community Housing was a whirlwind experience. I was a recent graduate myself and keenly aware of what our interns should be capable of technology-wise. My expectations were surpassed by many of our interns that summer, especially University of Cincinnati Electronic Media student Jarrod Welling-Cann.
In addition to being a talented film maker, Jarrod demonstrated a growing passion for the resident-centered, community building work that OTRCH engaged in. Many in Cincinnati know of Over-the-Rhine Community Housing as a leader in providing safe, quality affordable housing because the 93 buildings we manage in Over-the-Rhine are the evidence. Less well known is the perseverance it takes to build and sustain the affordable housing, the commitment and passion of staff, and the programs and services OTRCH provides that truly make the organization "more than a roof."
After Jarrod's summer internship wrapped up, he remained a dedicated volunteer to OTRCH and the people of Over-the-Rhine, volunteering at our Children's Creative Corner and lending his film talents to the organization by filming this documentary and other short films. It was such an awesome and encouraging experience for me as Jarrod's former supervisor to see him stay involved after the internship, and it was an honor to be included in this documentary. I am interviewed at about 1 minute 30 seconds in and later in the video around 6 minutes.
In the summer of 2010, by a stroke of luck and through word of mouth, I moved to one of the tiniest neighborhood districts in Cincinnati: Brighton.
In a series of blog posts, I hope to convey the unique 'sense of place' present in Brighton now, and throughout the last 150 years, as well as the impact living in the neighborhood has had on me as a Planner.
As a first post I share with you a tv news piece and print stories centered on a new neighborhood establishment, Rake's End. In the spring of 2012 my landlord Fred Lane was in the process of re-establishing a business that had existed in the neighborhood in the 1930s, then a sandwich and soda shop known as The Rake. This re-opening was notable because there are very few businesses operating in the neighborhood, which lost 20,000 homes when an interstate expressway was built in the 1960s.
In April 2012 a local tv news station picked up the story and wanted to feature the business and the existing creative energy and art scene in the neighborhood. The station reached out to Fred, and Fred reached out to me and asked if I'd like to be interviewed. In keeping with my enthusiastic spirit, I jumped at the chance to champion the neighborhood. The 4 minute piece is viewable below.
In print, Maria Seda-Reeder features Rake's End and Brighton in this piece, "Brighton's Shiniest". I'm quoted briefly at the end of the article. Matthew Risher covers Brighton and the positive impact of Rake's End in this write up, "New Years Eve at the Rake's End", which features a few of my photos.
Surrounded by support from my colleagues!
On Thursday June 13th I had the pleasure of attending the Community Development Corporations Association of Greater Cincinnati's annual gathering and awards luncheon.
I was looking forward to the luncheon because it's an opportunity to be in the same room with so many hardworking men and women who dedicate their time and energy to community development. Within moments of walking in the door, I was greeted by friend Samantha Brockfield, who had volunteered to greet and sign in guests. Samantha is my closest friend in community development - when I met her for the first time, I jotted down "this women will change my life" on the back of her business card, and those words rang true. I then spotted Patrick Whalen, a fellow Planner who was one of the first interns I ever supervised at Over-the-Rhine Community Housing. Being greeted by Samantha and running into Patrick set a great tone for the luncheon, but nothing could have prepared me for the moment when I sat down at a table and opened the event program - there inside was a photo of me (taken in action, while working with a volunteer group) and the words "Most Outstanding CDC Staffer"!
To my surprise, months beforehand my inspiring and supportive colleagues at Over-the-Rhine Community Housing had nominated me for the recognition. This is the biggest honor I have ever received, and it means the world to me. Prior to working at Over-the-Rhine Community Housing, 'community' was more of a concept to me, and 'community development' a branch of Planning that I had spent more time reading about than participating in. But from the first few days with Over-the-Rhine Community Housing, I was fully immersed in the neighborhood and community, and taken under the wing of my bosses Mary and Andy.
Just a few days after starting at OTRCH the organization held a groundbreaking for the Jimmy Heath House, the first housing development based on the Housing First model in the city. The groundbreaking was a gathering of hundreds of supporters and friends of the organization to celebrate the uphill journey to open the doors of the Jimmy Heath House. A few days later, my boss Mary B. Rivers was honored at the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition's annual dinner, where she received the buddy gray Lifetime Achievement award for her decades of service to affordable housing and social justice. Being present at the dinner and hearing my boss' reflection had a life changing impact on me. With these two events as my introduction to OTRCH, I think it was only natural that I was inspired to dive in and contribute everything I had to my roles and responsibilities. As I transition out of my role at OTRCH to seek a more direct way to use my Urban Planning degree, this "Most Outstanding CDC Staffer" recognition will forever be an inspiration to continue giving my best!
Young professional Urban Planner, drawing inspiration from all people, places and experiences I encounter!