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Planner Profile: Amy Johnson

Name: Amy C Johnson

Title: Senior Planner

Company/Employer: City of Westminster

Tells us a little about yourself professionally.
In addition to the professional narrative about how I got into planning [below], I have worked as a Senior Planner for the City of Westminster for the past two years. Prior to that, I also worked for Centennial and Greenwood Village in Denver Metro. At Westminster, my focus for most of the time has been split between current development caseloads and long range sustainability planning matters. I headed up the initial effort to make the first minor updates to our residential design guidelines in the direction of greater sustainability. I have been one of a core group guiding the water conservation planning aspect of sustainability relative to landscape regulation updates, long range land use planning, and coordination with our Public Works and Utilities Department. I also participated in the Invest Health Grant efforts planning for greater mobility, safety, and equitable healthy food access in the Federal Boulevard corridor area of Westminster.

Tell us how you got into planning.
My path to planning was not traditional. After receiving a Bachelor’s degree at Colorado State University in Landscape Architecture, I worked as both a Landscape Architect and private “Land Planner” for 15 years in Colorado and Texas. In Texas I obtained my American Society of Landscape Architects license in 2008. But the downturn in the economy around that same time necessitated my exploration of additional professional paths. In 2012 I obtained a certificate for my graduate work in Geographic Information Systems with a focus on planning at the University of Denver. Shortly after that I began studying for the American Institute of Certified Planners examination where I was reminded of how closely tied the history of landscape architecture and planning truly are. While this shift to public planning at the city government level in 2012 represented some new aspects in my work, I have continued to apply my knowledge of planning and landscape architecture to a multitude of projects.

Tell us a little about yourself outside of planning.
I am a Colorado native, born in Wheat Ridge, but growing up on a farm outside Brush, CO. Participating in the chores associated with both farm and yard work at my childhood home on the high plains gave me a close up perspective of the contrast between maintaining the plants brought in from the eastern part of the country and the native grasses and forbs which required
no maintenance. In addition to farming, my father served on the local ditch board for many years, and I thereby absorbed a bit of how challenging water rights can be. My mother’s work as director of the library there also gave me an appreciation for the ways in which local government can best support its citizens. One of the first landscape designs I did was also for the library in Brush.
I currently live in my townhouse in Arvada with my dog, Jitterbug, who will be 10 years old this March. He is named for one of the styles of East Coast Swing Dancing that I enjoy, as well as for his excited demeanor every time I come home.

Who is your planning hero or role model?
I have always admired Jane Jacobs’ foresight and tenacity in standing up for what was right, not just for herself, but for a whole neighborhood. Although she was not a planner, like many planners since then, I am inspired to believe it is our professional responsibility to represent those whose voices we are least likely to hear because of their relative economic disadvantage.
What makes planning special/interesting/difficult/fun in Colorado?

The history of water and resource management in Colorado is what I believe makes planning in Colorado both interesting and difficult. As a child my family would regularly spend a few days in a cabin in the Poudre Canyon near the Spencer Heights area. We used to hike up to see a tunnel that had been bored through the mountain for the purpose of bringing more water to the Front Range area of Colorado. I learned that there are many ways this has occurred for many decades, yet with the recent sharp increase in population of Metro Denver, the limitations of the practice are finally irrefutable. While many cities have taken a much more conservative tack to landscape requirements for years, strategies for planning for the responsible use of water in land use has only begun. This is the challenge I look forward to tackling next.
 

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