Southwest Section Update: Planner Spotlight on SW Section Member, Mike Beck

Current Position: Land Use Planner, Skamania County. My principal responsibility is development review of projects inside the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. I also serve as a Planning Commissioner for the City of Stevenson.

Total years in Planning: Three. 

First Planning Related Job: I earned my first planning paycheck while a graduate student at the University of Michigan working for Dexter Township outside of Ann Arbor. I chased down code violations and reconciled old final approvals.

Hometown: Marquette, a town on Lake Superior in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

Hobbies: I’m a voracious reader, enjoy bicycling, backcountry skiing, woodcraft, beadwork and writing. I also love to cook. 

Favorite place to escape from the office: I live in the Columbia River Gorge so just stepping outside is an escape, but riding my bike on the Historic Columbia River Highway is my most frequent getaway.

Why did you choose a career in planning? A major influence that led me to return to school mid-life to pursue a career in planning was the Pike Place Market where I worked for several years, lastly as editor of the Pike Place Market News. I was exposed to the history of the market, how farmers markets operate, and how a public development authority can create great public spaces while providing housing options along with supporting and incubating independent businesses. Meet the producer! The Pike Place Market is an amazing place.

What’d you do before you became a planner? I worked several interim jobs during school - bagel baker, lifeguard, ski instructor, outdoor recreation center manager - but before leaving Seattle to return to school I worked at Gregg’s Greenlake Cycle and taught bicycling on the side as a League of American Bicyclists cycling instructor.

What advice would you give a new planner? Get to know the community that you work for. Spend time walking, biking and riding public transit around your community. Don’t be afraid to ask questions on the job. Attend community planning events and public meetings. Volunteer. 

If you could have any job for a day, what would it be? If you were not a planner? National Park Service backcountry ranger.

Favorite planning book/article/ or resource? “A Pattern Language: Towns Buildings Construction” is a classic, “The 99% Invisible City” is my favorite planning book of 2020, and the APA’s Planning Advisory Service reports are great resources to draw from.