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
Young professional Urban Planner, drawing inspiration from all people, places and experiences I encounter!