Retirement JourmeyLast Words, Final Thoughts

Each month I write an article for our department newsletter.  This month was the final article of my career. 

“For the month of March, this will my last Director’s Corner Newsletter article. In a few weeks, at the end of the month, I will join the ranks of the retired. I have thought about what I want to say here and struggled a bit. 

I’ve asked myself a few questions:

Who do I thank for all the support, partnership and kindness I’ve received? 

What is there to say that would be meaningful after spending 44 years with the same department?

When people think of me what do I want them to remember?

How do I say a final goodbye to people that I have known for days, years, or even decades?  

Lately I have attended some “last meetings” and said goodbye to co-workers, colleagues and friends.  They are our regional partners, county council members and those that serve on boards and committees. I am filled with gratitude for the career I’ve enjoyed. I appreciate that I was able to live my purpose and get paid to do things that made me happy, which is serving others. A few people have asked me “What is your legacy, what do you want people to remember you for?”

Some of you know I started as a receptionist in Long Range Planning in 1977. For much of my time here I worked the front counter as a Land Development Specialist. I loved the excitement of assisting customers and enjoyed answering zoning and land use questions.  Later I became an associate planner, planner, senior planner and then a subdivision team lead.  In 2002-2003 my life was forever changed when I was put on the Planning and Development Reinvention Team (PDRT or “paydirt”). I saw the world with new eyes as I learned about “systems thinking,” process redesign and transforming the department into a recognized leader in customer service.

The vision for all the process changes began during that time period.  How often does a person get to be on a “reinvention team” and then get the privilege of implementing what you could only dream about?  I did. Starting in 2005, we began working on online permitting, Mybuildingpermit.com and the Inspections Improvement project.  From there we didn’t look back, soon came the AMANDA (permitting tracking system) Redesign Team (ART), the AMANDA Map Portal (AMP), electronic plan review and acquiring a records management system. For the next 16 years, I have spent countless hours trying to figure out how to make it all happen. Amazingly and fortunately, we went live with 100% electronic permitting a full 18 months before the pandemic!

I hope my legacy is that we were able to implement a vision that raised the level of service for our customers by creating a sustainable end to end, “cradle to grave” electronic permitting system. I hope you remember that throughout the process we worked hard, had fun, kept a positive attitude through adversity (think economic downturn of 2008), took risks and failed, tried again and approached challenges with creativity and teamwork.  At the end of each project we were able to look back proudly at what was accomplished, knowing we treated each other with dignity and respect, and then we celebrated!

Some of the best times of my work life were when we set out to do the impossible and together, we did it!

After 44 years here, I think these ideas sum it all up:

What we do is important!

People in our community depend on us to plan our future, regulate development, keep each other safe and facilitate the development of vibrant places.

Planning for housing and jobs, protecting the environment and assuring that when someone goes into a building it won’t fall on them and if there is ever a fire that they can get out, are but a few of the things we do.

How we treat our customers and each other, with kindness, patience, empathy and respect goes a long way to make what is complicated easier.  

At the end of the day, if you can remember, “Be Nice!” it can serve to mitigate the stress.

When people think of me what do I want them to remember?

That I cared and worked hard.  I care deeply about every one of you.  I have tried to be open, honest and transparent in all my interactions. I took on new challenges even when I didn’t think I was qualified or had what it takes.  I strove to be a mentor to others and share what I had learned over the years so there could be growth.

How do I say a final goodbye to people that I have known for days, years, or even decades?  

I don’t think I can really say a final goodbye.  I have spent more waking hours with all of you than my own family. Because I’ll still be in Snohomish, I’ll always be available if someone wants to understand the past or needs a history lesson about PDS. I hope that we can gather again over coffee, a lunch or an adult beverage on a deck by the marina.

As I pass the baton to others, may you run a strong race. I believe in all of you and have faith that you will thrive in the coming years.  I’m so proud of all that we’ve accomplished together, my leg of the journey is finished.”

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