Two experienced planners are vying to become Astoria’s community development director.
They talked with city leaders and residents at an informal meet-and-greet Thursday night and will spend Friday interviewing with other department heads, a citizen panel and City Manager Brett Estes.
Estes had narrowed down the pool of applicants to three people, but one person removed their name from consideration. The two remaining finalists are Amy Weiser, the community services director for Moab, Utah, and Kelly Violette, executive director of the Tomball Economic Development Corporation in Tomball, Texas.
The person the city hires will oversee a department that is responsible for significant pieces of Astoria, from economic development, zoning, land use planning and code enforcement to historic preservation, building inspections and the urban renewal districts.
Weiser has more than 20 years of experience in planning, much of it in southern Oregon where she worked for Jackson County and the cities of Medford and Jacksonville. She also has experience in development and historic preservation.
Moab has a population of around 6,000 people, but a daily tourist count of anywhere from 25,000 to 50,000, she told the audience Thursday. Like Astoria, and many other cities across the country, Moab is dealing with workforce housing issues that have been exacerbated by the rise of vacation rental options like Airbnb. Violette was Tomball’s first city planner and worked to incorporate zoning practices into a city that had never had them before. The economic development corporation she leads now has a board that reports to the city and is tasked with creating jobs and promoting economic development. While linked to the city’s formal planning and permitting processes, it is a separate entity.
Violette said Tomball is very similar in size to Astoria, in terms of both population and land. The city had a population of 10,753, according to the census.
Astoria’s community development director position has been filled by Estes since October after former director Kevin Cronin left the job amid concerns about his management. Cronin has continued to work in the area as a consultant. Port of Astoria Commissioner Frank Spence said the Port had a good working relationship with Cronin and has contracted with him to work on grants.
“The Port is certainly very interested in who the new community development director is going to be because we work so closely with that person,” he said.
The Port’s main hub and industrial land are in Astoria, subject to the city’s zoning and land use regulations. Whatever the Port or its tenants want to do must go through the city. “So a close working relationship is extremely important from our point of view,” Spence said.
Jared Rickenbach, a general contractor and member of the city’s Design Review Committee, agreed.
“That person is your connection with the city,” he said.