Meet the Planner: Kirsty Sanchez

Posted January 19, 2017

Meet The Planner is an introduction to APA-IA Chapter Members advocating for the Planning Profession through daily action. The Iowa Chapter of the American Planning Association counts an ambitious, diverse, and talented group of professionals as members. Each quarter I have the pleasure of introducing you to one of them. I work for the City of Cedar Rapids, so naturally I had to start these interviews here at home. I’m extremely proud to call this fiercely funny and wildly talented professional my colleague. I am pleased to introduce…..

Kirsty Sanchez - Professional, Volunteer, Planning Protagonist

Role in APA-Iowa:

Member; Planning Committee Member for 2016 APA-IA Annual Conference

Occupation, Work History, and Education:

Project Planner (Current), Planner II (Previous), City of Cedar Rapids; Planner, City of Hardeeville, SC; MS in City and Regional Planning - Clemson University; BA in Environmental Studies, Winthrop University

Family and Early Experiences:

Kirsty is the 2nd of three children, with an older sister and a younger brother.  Kirsty’s sister is the first person in her family to earn a college degree and her brother is in his junior year at a 4-year University. Kirsty’s father and mother were born in Los Angeles and Mexico respectively and currently live in South Carolina.  Kirsty spent a significant number of her school age years in Lakenheath, UK during her Father’s 26-year career with the United States Air Force.  

Kirsty and I met for an interview at the Early Bird Coffee Shop in the former Smulekoff’s building in downtown Cedar Rapids.

How did the time you spent overseas influence your professional perspective?

Big box stores didn’t exist where we were living in the U.K. and we walked more than we used our car. So when we moved back to the U.S. I was surprised to see that we had to use our cars to get anything done. I see value in design which requires people to park and walk as opposed to door to door car trips.

What part of your career consistently challenges and rewards you?

Public engagement. Open houses for various planning projects and engaging Neighborhood Associations can be challenging. Observing the change in attitude and understanding of participants is very rewarding.

Have you ever seriously considered a different career path?

I thought about a career in marketing when I was in college. I started taking classes with that degree in mind, but I decided to pursue a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies and a minor in business.

Do you use those marketing skills currently?

Yes. I get to use the marketing skills I learned when creating boards and materials for open houses.

What value do you bring to the City of Cedar Rapids through your career?

I try to have a positive impact in my community through my career. I love this city and the people I have met. I try to make other people see Cedar Rapids the way I do.

I know you spend a lot of time volunteering. What are some of the volunteer activities you participate in?

I volunteer at the Cedar Rapids Public Library sorting returned books and I maintain the Cooking Section as a part of the Library’s “Adopt a Shelf” program. I have a “little” through the Big Brothers & Big Sisters of America. I have also helped construct houses with Habitat for Humanity and been an Usher and participated in set construction for Theatre Cedar Rapids. I also serve on the Financial Stability Solutions Team with United Way.

In your view, what is an important emerging issue in professional planning?

Sustainability. The word gets used a lot and doesn’t hold much weight. We need to find a balance between growth and minimizing the impact on the environment, ensure new development gives considerable thought to design and context, and demand that what gets constructed today will be valued 20 years from now. Planners are in a position to influence and lead the effort to incorporate sustainability/environmental principles into new development including responsible infill development.

What are you most proud of?

Accomplishment – Master’s degree. Neither of my parents went to college and I am the first person in my family to obtain a Master’s degree.

Family – My sister. She is the first person in my family to get a Bachelor’s degree.

Professionally – Observing how the relationship between City government and the residents in Cedar Rapids has changed (improved) in the time I’ve been here and contributing to that relationship.

What are you most afraid of?

Not accomplishing my goals and dreams. Not living up to the expectations I set for myself.

So what does success look like?

Living in a City in which I am having a positive impact. Working with co-workers that that I like and respect and that like and respect me, this is one measure of success. My goal is to be well-rounded so that I can one day be in a leadership position. I want to have the experience and knowledge necessary so that others trust my judgment and feel comfortable with decisions I make.

It appears to me as though Kirsty is on the right track. That was fun. I’ll be back next month.

- Bill Micheel, AICP, Asst. Director of Community Development, City of Cedar Rapids

Meet the Planner: Kirsty Sanchez