Stephanie “Pete” Palmer started Monday (March 9) as Okanogan County’s new planning director.
Palmer, a life-long county resident with 26 years of experience in planning, land use and economic development for the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, worked regularly with Okanogan County’s planning and Public Works departments during her tenure with the tribes, according to Tanya Craig, the county’s human resources director.
Palmer was most recently the land use and shoreline administrator for the Colville Tribes, but she previously worked in the tribes’ Public Works Department, Craig said.
“One of the things I was looking for was a candidate who knew Okanogan County well, and knew the diversity we have,” Okanogan County Commissioner Andy Hover said.
The county was also looking for someone with a long-term commitment who can jump right in. “She knows a lot about our planning process and can hit the ground running and keep us moving along,” Hover said.
In her work for the tribes, Palmer took the time to educate herself about county issues and land-use policies, Craig said. “The employees are pretty excited because they have worked with her,” she said.
Palmer’s responsibilities for the Colville Tribes included land and shoreline development and applicable law, natural-resources management, and building and site inspections. She also worked in emergency response, floodplain clean-up, and enforcement. She handled solid-waste management and created the tribes’ recycling program.
Palmer was involved in the tribes’ public outreach and education and in economic development of tourism. She has experience with grant writing and management and has also managed budgets. Palmer holds certifications in project management and executive tribal planning.
This is the county’s second round in the search for a new planning director, after the first hire notified the county a week before his start date that he wouldn’t be taking the job after all.
Palmer was one of 12 applicants in the first round, but hadn’t been one of the four finalists. To be sure the process was fair and transparent, the commissioners chose to use a scoring system that awarded points for advanced degrees, accreditation and certification, Craig said. Palmer has extensive on-the-job experience, but in the first pool of applicants there were several with graduate degrees in planning, she said.
The commissioners used the same scoring system after they readvertised the position in February. The second search drew five applicants, with two — Palmer and another individual — submitting their name a second time, Craig said.
The commissioners scheduled interviews with four of the candidates last week, but one withdrew before the interview after accepting another job.
Palmer was selected by a hiring committee of the three county commissioners, Craig, and Planning Commissioner Verlene Hughes, who was selected by the planning commissioners as their representative.
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 planning director job description lists a varied set of responsibilities, including management and budgeting for the Planning Department and handling sensitive land-use and development issues among county, state, federal and tribal entities.
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.