City promotes Smith to planning director
The City of Prineville has hired from within to fill its recently vacated planning director position.
Josh Smith, who has worked in the city planning department for 13 years, was promoted from senior planner to director, following an application process that spanned roughly two months.
The position was left open following the departure of Phil Stenbeck, who left the city to take a job with Oregon's Department of Land Conservation and Development (DLCD). Stenbeck was the second straight planning director and supervisor of Smith to move on to the DLCD. Scott Edelman made the same transition in November 2013.
City Manager Steve Forrester said that Stenbeck left some big shoes to fill because of his breadth of qualifications and experience. The city accepted eight applications to fill the vacancy but didn't see anybody that fit what the municipality needed.
"We were looking for someone who was very familiar with Oregon land use laws and more specifically with what goes on in a town our size in Eastern or Central Oregon," Forrester said.
The city manager stressed that all eight applicants were good candidates, but the city wanted to hire someone who was familiar with the aspects that make Prineville unique.
"Unless you have been in the thick of that for a while, it's pretty difficult to cover all of those bases," Forrester said.
One person who chose not to throw his name in the hat was Smith. A longtime senior planner who covered the day-to-day aspects of city planning and working with the customers, he was not certain his skill-set would match the city's needs. Unlike the senior planner position, the planning director is charged with being a legal expert on land use planning laws and rules that come down from Salem and the DLCD.
"It is an ever-changing world," Forrester said, adding that they need somebody who can keep up with the changes and coordinate them with city planning efforts.
Smith also felt it would be challenging to take on the planning director duties while training someone to complete the day-to-day tasks that he had typically covered.
"That was my biggest hesitation," he said. "It is a challenge."
While that is the case, Forrester and other members of the city's management team felt Smith was up to the challenge, and even though Smith had initially declined to take the position, they asked him again to take the job.
"Josh has worked with two very accomplished planners (Stenbeck and Edelman)," Forrester said. "He was really the planner in the trenches, so to speak. He was the one who was putting the deals together under the oversight of Phil. We really just felt that he had the institutional knowledge that we were looking for."
Forrester went on to note that Smith has developed relationships with local government officials and has a connection to Stenbeck and Edelman with the DLCD.
Persuaded to give the position a second chance, Smith agreed to accept the job offer. It helped that he had spent the past couple months filling in for Stenbeck and learning the planning director responsibilities.
It was welcome news for Forrester and the rest of the city's management team.
"We are very pleased that Josh has accepted the director role," Forrester said. "We are very comfortable with him and confident in his capabilities and look forward to the next chapter in the planning department here at the City. He is going to do a great job."