Like his predecessor, Phil Stenbeck accepts state planning position after four years of leading city planning department

JASON CHANEY - Phil Stenbeck has worked on several high-profile city projects during his tenure.

The City of Prineville is losing a second straight planning director to Oregon's Department of Land Conservation and Development.

Phil Stenbeck, who has served as the city's lead planning official, recently accepted a job with the DLCD and will fill the position early next month. He follows in the footsteps of his predecessor, Scott Edelman, who left the city for the DLCD in November 2013.

Stenbeck joined the city planning department after working literally across the street as Crook County's Assistant Planning Director for about four years. During his county stint, he also filled the planning director role for Jefferson County for a year.

His stops in Central Oregon are the latest in a career spanning more than 20 years as a planner. He first spent 17 years in Douglas County, where he also taught land use at a local college.

In a letter written to his colleagues announcing his plans, Stenbeck took time to thank the city council for hiring him and the staff for accepting him as a part of their team.

"The close working relationship the team has developed will be very much missed," he wrote. "As you are well aware, the team here at the city is legendary, and I am proud to say that I was a part of it."

Stenbeck points out that he was involved in reviewing or writing land use approvals for numerous noteworthy projects and accomplishments in Crook County and Prineville during the past several years. That list includes the addition of two large data centers, a new hospital, school, and jail and an upcoming conversion of Ochoco Elementary to a Housing Works affordable housing facility.

"I have been a part of a team here that was shooting for the stars and landed on some pretty good ones," he remarked.

His letter also thanked a long list of colleagues that includes multiple city councilors, county court members, city and county staff members and other local leaders throughout the community.

"The list is long," he said, recalling the way it kept growing as he reflected on his time in Prineville.

Stenbeck's last day as the city planning director will be March 2, and he will begin his new job as DLCD's Eastern Oregon Representative on March 5. He likened the work to his role back in Douglas County early in his career.

"Part of my job duties was as city and county coordinator," he recalls. "I actually went around to 12 cities in Douglas County and talked about different agreements pertaining to land use."

His new job, he said, will once again give him an opportunity to talk with people about how the complicated state land use program works. But instead of covering one county, he will oversee 10 counties comprised of about 23 million acres in the "eastern third of the state."

The job will move him out of Prineville and over to La Grande, where he will have an office, in addition to one in Bend.

City leadership plans to solicit applications to fill Stenbeck's vacancy within the next week, and City Manager Steve Forrester said he hopes to find another person like Stenbeck for the job.

"We were very fortunate to have Phil the time that we had him," he said. "And I think the fact the DLCD has recruited both of our (past) planning directors really speaks volumes to the quality of the (city) team."

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