Planner Profile - Judy East
The Maine Association of Planners is proud to represent planners and others involved in planning across this great state. One of the best contributions we can make to support planning is to connect and support our professional planning community.
Maine is a big state and the planning community is a busy bunch. The Planner Profiles series gives us a chance to meet each other and learn about our skills, interests, and experiences online.
Meet Judy East, Executive Director, Washington County Council of Governments:
HOW MANY YEARS IN PLANNING PROFESSION?
Executive Director, Washington County Council of Governments
TELL US ABOUT YOUR BACKGROUND
I grew up in Toronto and I still love big cities but have lived my entire adult life in rural New York and New England. My husband and I live on a 6 acre farm in Calais with a farm stand, a cider orchard, an absurd extent of perennial gardens, and a local food distribution business.
WHAT LED YOU INTO PLANNING?
I started with a love of lakes and a great high school bio teacher. That led to a degree in freshwater ecology to which I added a minor degree in economics. The dismal science did not reliably "internalize the externalities” of modern human activity so I sought out a graduate degree that added group dynamics, community organization, and public policy into the mix - that turned out to be planning.
WHAT IS UNIQUE ABOUT PLANNING IN MAINE?
The subdivision law. Never seen anything like it. The variety and extent of its exemptions to what defines land subdivision is astounding. Also the shoreland zoning law. It comes with a pile of baggage but may be the most important land use law we have. Maine would not be the extraordinary place that it is without it.
WHAT IS THE MOST REWARDING ASPECT OF YOUR WORK?
Knowing that I made a contribution here and there. As I travel it makes me smile when I see a sidewalk I helped a town finance, Brownfields sites that my program moved from abandonment to economic vibrancy, black bear habitat I helped to protect in VT, disease resistant elm trees that have grown 20 feet since I wrote the grant to pay for them, and infrastructure that withstands storms and keeps dirty water from reaching the river. Stuff like that. And the people. The relationships with colleagues provide me with immense intellectual reward and friendship. I am also continually amazed and impressed with the dedication of volunteer municipal officials.
WHAT IS THE MOST CHALLENGING ASPECT OF YOUR WORK?
The relentlessness of keeping multiple balls in the air all the time. I have a two person, two office agency serving 34 towns and a huge area of unorganized territory. We rely on excellent computer systems and strategic use of consultants but Crystal and I do it all - the substantive planning, transportation, economic development, grant writing, GIS mapping, data crunching etc. and all the reporting, administration and bookkeeping. Keeping that many ducks in a row all the time is a challenge.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR DREAM PROJECT – WHAT KIND OF PLANNING WORK WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE MORE INVOLVED WITH?
I would like to be in charge of cleaning up the plastic in the ocean. You did ask. And I mean really in charge. I would like to have the money, the talent and the influence to collect it, reprocess it and stop it from getting there in the first place. It would cost trillions, it would take a legion of chemists, engineers, marine scientists and others, and it would necessitate control over the fossil fuel and plastic manufacturing industries, among others who would have to come up with alternatives for our collective packaging issues. But, yes, that is a dream. Meantime I guess I’ll work on climate resilience projects in working waterfronts in Downeast Maine.
WHAT IS YOUR NICHE OR MAIN EXPERTISE?
Helping tiny little towns with very limited resources reach their own decisions about their own future…and getting stuff paid for and done.
This profile was originally published on October 10, 2018.