Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966

New planner worked on comprehensive plan


Holly Smith

The Haines Borough's new planner is a fourth-generation Southeast Alaska resident and already has experience working with the municipality's Comprehensive Plan.

Holly Smith, 34, starts on the job Aug. 22. She holds a bachelor's degree in environmental studies with an emphasis in land use planning from Southern Oregon University, and started a master's degree in community and regional planning from the University of Oregon.

Born in Ketchikan and raised in Juneau, Smith has visited Haines several times and became familiar with some of its planning issues when she worked for Sheinberg Associates, the Juneau-based community and strategic planning company that compiled the borough's Comprehensive Plan in 2011-2012.

That's one of the reasons Smith beat out four other candidates for the job, said borough manager Bill Seward.

"She was very familiar with our Comprehensive Plan and she has a lot of experience in regional planning," Seward said.

Seward, clerk Julie Cozzi and chief fiscal officer Jila Stuart were on the committee that hired Smith. None of the five applicants for the job were from Haines, Seward said.

Smith worked as a legislative aide for state Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, D-Sitka, in 2013. Like her predecessor Tracy Cui, Smith also has experience with Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping.

"I think we all agreed that with her legislative experience and education and the exposure she had with Sheinberg that she was the best fit for Haines," Seward said.

Smith, who has worked on and off for Sheinberg since 2007, said in an interview this week she thinks her biggest challenge will be coming into a small community and learning about the layers of history behind each project.

"My challenge is going to be to really listen and learn for the next few months and get up to speed on what Haines cares about," Smith said.

Smith has never worked for a municipality, but believes many of her skills will easily translate from the private sector. "There was a lot of focus on meeting facilitation and explaining complicated planning procedures or law to people who didn't really know what was happening. So I have a lot of experience with that," she said.

Because she hasn't worked for a municipality, Smith isn't well-versed in the enforcement aspect of the planning job. Seward said the hiring committee didn't focus on that part of the position during the interview.

"We didn't portray Haines in a poor light. However, we did ask probing questions about her interpersonal skills and she scored high in those areas," Seward said.

Smith said she believes the best ideas often come from members of the public who are engaged in a project.

"I don't want to come in as an enforcer," she said. "I'd rather come in as someone who can be an advocate for the people within the community and the borough."

Smith planned to be in town Thursday and Friday to sit in on the Aug. 11 Planning Commission meeting and to look for housing.

Smith was hired at the Planner I level and will make $19.70 an hour in the full-time position.


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