Planner of the Month: Angela San Filippo

This month’s highlighted planner, Angela San Filippo, came as a recommendation from Scott Kuhta, Senior Planner with the Washington State Department of Commerce. Angela has been with Kittitas County as a Long Range Planner for 6 months and in the field of planning for 4 years. Prior to beginning her planning career, Angela did nearly every job under the sun, including research assistant, assistant scuba instructor, scientific diver, call center agent, fish biologist, bartender, waitress, hydrologist, secretary, reference librarian, and survey conductor. Away from working on the long range vision for Kittitas County, you can find Angela outside. Depending on the season she enjoys activities like trail running, snowboarding, and cross country skiing. Currently she is trying to incorporate more indoor winter activities by learning to play the guitar and working on her knitting skills. Read on for more in her own words:

  • Why did you choose the planning profession? Or did it choose you? I was working as a biologist/hydrologist when I began to realize I wanted to be more involved in the policy and management side of natural resource management. I recognized that my research, data analysis, and to some extent my recommendations were being used in the decisions that were being made but I didn’t have personal involvement or full understanding of the planning and decision-making processes. This led to frustration and a desire to expand my knowledge and career opportunities. Cue graduate school to study planning and public policy.
  • What part of your job do you find most rewarding? The most rewarding part of my job is that on a day-to-day basis I feel like my work has a direct impact on how people experience their lives. I think this is especially apparent in small, rural communities where even the smallest projects can have an immediate and lasting impact. The most rewarding part is when a member of the public or someone that I work with recognizes this as well and gives me direct feedback. I like seeing the light bulb go on when people really start to get it and am particularly pleased when they take the time to share their insights.
  • What is the oddest thing a citizen has ever asked or said to you? I always find it interesting that requests come in waves. Last week our office had numerous requests about backyard chickens. One woman requested a backyard chicken farm with 22,000 chickens, others just wanted one or two chickens for pets. Now we will probably go months without getting another chicken question.
  • What was your first planning related job? Technically, my first planning job was while working on my undergraduate degree. I was interning for the Hawaii Division of Aquatic Resources. I was tasked with conducting research in a new marine conservation district to help develop policies and regulations as well as a plan for public facilities that would have the greatest benefit to the surrounding community and visiting tourists while also protecting the fragile marine ecosystem. I didn’t recognize this as a planning related job until much later and it took me numerous careers moves and going back to school to get back to planning but it was during that internship that I first discovered and fell in love with planning.
  • What advice would you give a new planner? Planning can be very political; try not to take things personally. Also, celebrate both small and large successes. From my experience planning tends toward small incremental changes and I find that recognizing and celebrating the small successes can help to keep me motivated and excited about long-term goals and projects.
  • What are you looking for when you hire a planner? So many of the skills and knowledge in planning can and will be taught on the job, the most important skill that I would look for in a new planner is interpersonal communication. The ability to work well with their colleagues and the ability to communicate and relate to the public is paramount in the planning profession. To some extent these skills can also be learned, but a new planner that will turn into an exceptional planner already has excellent interpersonal communication skills.
  • What do you wish you had known when you started your career? Honestly, I wish that I had a better understanding of the breadth that planning encompasses. As I alluded to in a previous question I didn’t make the connection between planning as a career and my undergraduate research and jobs in natural resource management until I was at a crossroads trying to decide on the next step in my career. I am not sure what route my path would’ve taken if I had more knowledge of the planning field but I do think my decision to go back to school would have been easier and I may have reached it sooner.
  • If you were not a planner what profession would like likely be in? I would probably still be in the science field; hiking through forests, counting fish, analyzing water samples, and designing fish habitat and water quality restoration projects. Or teaching surf lessons.

If you’d like to nominate a Planner of the Month to be highlighted in a future newsletter, please contact Nikole Coleman at nikole.coleman@seattle.gov for further information.

Return to January issue of The Washington Planner