Okanogan County is back in the market for a planning director, after the person they’d hired phoned at the last minute to say he was declining the position.
Jamey Ayling was supposed to start his new job on Monday (Feb. 3), but called toward the end of January saying he’d have to postpone his start date by one week because he had “an obligation to finish,” Okanogan County Human Resources Director Tanya Craig said.
But on Tuesday (Feb. 4), Ayling called Shelley Keitzman, the human resources assistant, to say he was declining the job. “He’d accepted a position elsewhere closer to home. That’s all we were told,” Craig said.
Ayling lived in the Yakima area, where he was most recently the planning supervisor in Sunnyside. He had two decades of experience in city and county planning departments.
The county commissioners have directed Human Resources to readvertise the position. They will cast a wider net, Craig said. Last time, they advertised in Okanogan County and Seattle newspapers and with the American Planning Association of Washington. This time, they’ll include the Spokesman-Review in Spokane, the Washington State Association of Counties, and certain online job sites.
Human Resources had sent Ayling a contract and was waiting for a signed copy, Craig said. In fact, she was planning to follow up with him on Feb. 4 when the reason for the delay became apparent.
Ayling came to Okanogan County in December for an in-person interview with the three county commissioners, Craig, and a planning commissioner. He was one of four finalists out of a dozen applicants, but two withdrew before the interview because they’d found other jobs.
The county has been without a planning director since Perry Huston resigned on short notice in July to take care of personal and family matters. Senior Planner Angie Hubbard has filled in as interim planning director.
After reassessing the job description, the county advertised for a planning director in September. After the December interviews, the county commissioners took a couple of weeks to decide and settle on a salary, Craig said.
The county’s planning director has broad responsibility, overseeing key planning documents like the comprehensive plan, zoning code, and shoreline and critical-areas plans, as well as evaluating land-use proposals and doing environmental review for a range of projects. The director manages the Planning Department and handles sensitive land-use and development issues among county, state, federal and tribal entities.
The ads will run next week and the application period will close after about three weeks.
“The board doesn’t want to just settle — it’s an important position,” Craig said. “The hunt continues.”
Okanogan County Commissioner Andy Hover was in session and couldn’t be reached for comment by press time.