Finalists for Bellevue planning director unveiled
By NAT LEVY
Bellevue Reporter Staff Writer
September 17, 2010 · Updated 4:07 PM
The four finalists for Bellevue's planning director position capped off a grueling day of panel interviews with a chance to meet and greet Bellevue citizens Thursday.
In the next month, City Manager Steve Sarkozy will name either Mike Chen, Stephanie DeWolfe, Ray Gastil or Nathan Torgelson as the next planning director.
Two of the four candidates work for, or previously were employed by the City of Seattle. Gastil served as Seattle's planning director for two years before opening up his own consultancy firm, Gastilworks Planning & Deisgn. He brings an east-coast background and education having worked as New York City's planning director from 2005 to 2008. Gastil brings a background in architecture as well. He earned his masters in architecture from Princeton University and served as the director and executive director at several New York based design and planning firms during the 1990s.
Gastil said Bellevue's ambition to retain a close community while still pushing a strong economic profile intrigued him.
"It's a place that's hungry," Gastil said of Bellevue. "It's a place that is hungry to be that sort of city in the park, which is a pretty amazing vision, and not easy to pull off and be part of the global economy."
Torgelson, one of Gaskil's colleagues in Seattle, has been with the city for 16 years over two stints. From 1990 to 2002 he worked as a land use planner and manager of community development. After stints in Kent and Everett, Torgelson returned to Seattle where he worked as the community development manager under Mayor Greg Nickels and later the real property manager for the Department of Parks and Recreation.
Torgelson said his multi-disicpline background will help in Bellevue, which has a number of unique and complex issues.
"Traffic, congestion is the obvious one," he said. "Bellevue has a remarkable opportunity with light-rail alignment and carrying out the Bel-Red plan."
The local candidates are challenged by Chen, who has worked in the private sector and development departments at numerous cities around the country, and DeWolfe, who's been with the City of Pasadena, Calif., since 1990.
Chen worked as the director of development services for Village of Oak Park, Ill., and development services manager in Tampa, Fla.
Chen said his work in the private sector has given him the skills to get results. He said he often had to be the intermediary between Japanese and US officials when he worked as the director and senior vice president of Japan Development and Construction Company.
"One of things I pride myself on since I've been in the public sector is implementation," he said. "Skill sets I picked up in the private sector have been a major contributor to that."
DeWolfe has been the deputy planning director for Pasadena since 2004, with a one year hiatus when she stepped in as the acting assistant city manager in 2008.
DeWolfe said her experience working in the city manager's office for nine years before moving to the planning department helped her look at issues from all sides.
She said Bellevue compares similarly to Pasadena in its population, and the goals the people want to achieve.
"Bellevue has this tremendous amount of opportunity on the door step," she said. "There are great plans, and great visions for where this community wants to go, and it's exciting to be behind that kind of vision."
Whoever gets the job will replace Matt Terry, who retired from the city in June after 30 years. During his career with Bellevue, Terry guided several major initiatives, including the development of downtown into a regional hub for retail and employment, and a re-zone of the Bel-Red corridor that will extend the city's urbanization efforts east across Interstate 405.
Dan Stroh has served as the interim director while the city conducted a nationwide search, using Pennsylvania-based search firm Affion Public, that stretched through the summer months. Some of the primary qualifications for the job include experience with light-rail and transit development, and extensive leadership experience, according to recruiting materials.Contact Bellevue Reporter Staff Writer Nat Levy at firstname.lastname@example.org or 425-453-4290.