Planner Profile: Samantha Horn-Olsen
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 Samantha Horn-Olsen, Planning Manager, State of Maine Land Use Planning Commission:
HOW MANY YEARS IN PLANNING PROFESSION?
Planning Manager, Land Use Planning Commission
TELL US ABOUT YOUR BACKGROUND
I have lived in many states, and did my undergraduate work in Biology and English Literature at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. After field jobs out west, interests in science, people and decision-making led me to a Master’s program in the Human Dimensions of Fisheries and Wildlife, and subsequent professional positions that all focused around improving public decision-making in public policy. I came to Maine in 1999 to work for Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and have been here since, living first in Bowdoinham and then Readfield.
WHAT LED YOU INTO PLANNING?
Planning in the unorganized territories is very much about a healthy relationship between people, economy, community and natural resources. When I had the chance to move from aquaculture policy to a rural planning role in 2008, it seemed like a natural next step.
WHAT IS UNIQUE ABOUT PLANNING IN MAINE?
Planning and permitting for the unorganized territories (which comprise half the state) require attention to such a varied set of geographies and cultural and economic norms that it is a unique policy puzzle that is important both to the local residents, and to the overall state economy and identity. The areas we serve include coastal islands such as Monhegan, the “big woods”, the farms of The County and the blueberry barrens Downeast, and the recreational hubs of the western mountains and the Moosehead area. It is never dull!
WHAT IS THE MOST REWARDING ASPECT OF YOUR WORK?
Working with engaged and thoughtful residents, landowners, and stakeholders to design creative policy solutions that will actually work across the entire 10.4 million acres. It is an intellectual challenge that is made meaningful by the incredible commitment and creativity of the folks with whom we collaborate.
WHAT IS THE MOST CHALLENGING ASPECT OF YOUR WORK?
Making sure that, with a staff of 20 for planning, permitting, and code enforcement, we can tackle all of the issues and large projects that need attention while still providing excellent service to someone who wants to construct a camp, or even just a deck or shed.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR DREAM PROJECT – WHAT KIND OF PLANNING WORK WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE MORE INVOLVED WITH?
The rural areas in Maine are undergoing an economic sea change. It would be rewarding to be able to spend more time looking at the specific factors that may lead to success in this transition. To the degree that there are viable business ideas out there, we would like to anticipate the need and enact proactive land use solutions that provide a “glide path” for economic growth while also protecting the natural resources and local character that fuel the desirability and identity of the state.
WHAT IS YOUR NICHE OR MAIN EXPERTISE?
Natural resource policy, conflict resolution, rural planning issues, public process, and consensus building.
This profile was originally published on February 25, 2018.