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 Shelley Norton, City Planner in Lewiston:


CURRENT JOB: City Planner for Lewiston, Maine

Tell us about your background

I grew up in Bridgton, Maine and attended USM. Planning wasn’t a career I considered early on.  I enjoyed plants and worked in greenhouses and landscaping growing up. I thought I would study environmental science but ended up getting an art degree, and after school eventually worked for Portland Water District doing non-point source pollution education in the Sebago Lake watershed, educating property owners on methods to infiltrate water and eliminate surface runoff. This led me to pursue a degree in landscape architecture and subsequently I worked in that field for a period of years in upstate New York. Five and half years ago I moved to Auburn, Maine. 

What led you into planning? 

After the downturn in 2008 I was working in a temporary position and deciding whether to continue in landscape architecture or try a related field. I had already realized that in the type of work I was doing, a lot of time was spent drafting, and primarily I worked for developers – neither was very satisfying for me. After exploring alternatives to landscape architecture, I was offered a planning position in the fast-growing town of Malta, NY and almost instantly I found planning to be a good fit. I find the job variety, public service, and social interaction of municipal planning rewarding, and my technical expertise and problem solving training from landscape architecture is helpful.

What is unique about planning in Maine? 

I haven’t found the day to day work in Maine much different from municipal work in New York, although there are fewer planning jobs so I find that planners here are either serving a wider geography or doing a wider range of tasks and spread thinner. As a result, we may be more reactive than proactive compared to professionals and agencies in other more resourced states.  One thing I have appreciated is how easy it is to get involved with policy making at the State level, and how easy-going the planning community is in general here. Planners and related professionals are generally friendly and happy to share and collaborate. 

What is the most rewarding aspect of your work? 

I like solving problems and helping others, whether it is providing information and guidance to the public or a board, fixing ordinances so it is easier for staff to apply, or improving a part of the city through planning and implementation projects – planning is fun.

What is the most challenging aspect of your work? 

I think many of us like to see immediate results, I know I do!  In municipal planning, our city initiatives usually require persistence and incremental work over time.  Balancing the competing demands of moving city projects forward with the day to day planning tasks of a busy office is challenging.  It can also be frustrating working on seemingly unsolvable problems that have a huge effect on people, like right now the lack of housing availability and affordability. 

Tell us about your dream project – what kind of planning work would you like to be more involved with? 

Right now we are updating the Riverfront Island Master Plan and the implementation of this and related downtown improvements has the potential to transform the riverfront, canals and downtown.  Being part of a major downtown revitalization that has a far-reaching effect would be deeply satisfying.  This is the first project I’ve worked on with this level of potential for change.  I’d love to be able to be part of a successful downtown transformation.

What is your niche or main expertise? 

I have a real passion for redevelopment and beautification, probably the landscape architect coming through.  Helping move land bank legislation forward (30-A MRSA, Chapter 204) was a very exciting project for me to work on for this reason.

Contributed by:

Shelley Norton, AICP

Shelley grew up in Bridgton, Maine, and has spent sixteen years working in land use professions including landscape architecture, infrastructure recovery with FEMA, stormwater management, and municipal and regional planning.  She currently serves as the City Planner for the City of Lewiston.  She holds a Masters in Landscape Architecture from Cornell University and Bachelor of Arts from the University of Southern Maine. Shelley has lived in Auburn for five years and is an avid gardener.