A planning director from Washington state and a Portland architect are vying for the job as Astoria’s community development director, a post the city has struggled to fill for over a year.

Kirsten Sackett, community development director for Ellensburg, and Stuart Emmons, an architect based in Portland, met with residents, city department heads and city leaders during a meet-and-greet event at Clatsop Community College on Wednesday night.

Candidates for development job meet the community

Kirsten Sackett, community development director of Ellensburg, and a candidate for a similar job with the city of Astoria, talks to Astoria City Councilor Joan Herman during a candidate meet and greet on Wednesday.

The event was an important “opportunity for the community to learn about them and for them to learn about the community,” City Manager Brett Estes said.

Sackett has spent the past 4 1/2 years in Ellensburg overseeing a variety of projects, including an overhaul of the city’s comprehensive plan and development codes. Her department works with a variety of city commissions, including one with a focus on affordable housing.

She previously worked her way up through the city planning and building division in Cortez, Colorado. She handled a little bit of everything and said she is comfortable with both the small and larger tasks that come with a planning job.

“Whatever comes up that’s important to the community, that’s what I work on,” she told the crowd.

Community meets development director candidates

Stuart Emmons, a Portland architect, is vying for a job as Astoria’s community development director. He met with city leaders and residents at a meet and greet on Wednesday.

Emmons lived on the North Coast for several years in the late 1970s, running a wood shop out of Hammond. In Portland, he has been involved in a variety of large and small planning and building projects for the city as both an architect and a planner. He worked on two big waterfront plans, neighborhood planning and a strategic plan to address homelessness, among other projects. He has also made two unsuccessful bids for the Portland City Council, running most recently in 2018 on an affordable housing and homeless platform.

Affordable housing and homelessness are two issues he has tried to address throughout his career. His firm has been working on modular shelters in Seattle most recently.

In his work with Portland, he found that a lot of reports and visioning plans he worked on “ended up on a shelf and nothing happened with them.”

Where the city has plans, he wants “to make sure if we want to do something that we do it and that reports don’t just sit on a shelf.”

Whoever is hired will take over a department that has long been juggling multiple large, complicated projects while short-handed.

The department is working on code amendments and updates, as well as the implementation of new codes which involve complicated questions about what should be allowed on the waterfront. The department is also heading up a long-term community planning project in the historic Uniontown area.

Regular day-to-day permit activity continues to be high, according to a quarterly report Estes included in a City Council meeting packet on Monday.

Kevin Cronin left the community development director post in October 2017.

Estes, himself a former community development director for the city, took over as interim director and supplemented staffing needs in the department through a series of consultants, such as former planners Rosemary Johnson and Mike Morgan.

This spring, city planner Nancy Ferber left for a job with the Columbia River Estuary Study Taskforce. Building official Tony Clifton’s job has just been posted as available on the city’s website.

Katie Frankowicz is a reporter for The Astorian. Contact her at 971-704-1723 or kfrankowicz@dailyastorian.com.

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