Joan Kaczmarek once worked for the Willapa Alliance in South BendPACIFIC COUNTY - South Pacific County and the city of Ilwaco have a new planner. On May 1, Pacific County Department of Community Development welcomed Joan Kaczmarek aboard. The addition of Kaczmarek brings the total number of planners for Pacific County, including Director Mike DeSimone, up to three.

"I enjoy this kind of work," she said of her new position.

Kaczmarek is no stranger to planning or to local issues. Although she spent the past five years as the planner and capital projects manager for the Monterey Peninsula Airport in California, she has also lived in Washington off and on for the past 30 years and has owned a home in Pacific County for the past 12 years.

"I'm really happy to be back home," she said. "That has been my goal since I left."

While she was in Monterey, she still received the local papers and in fact, found her new job through an advertisement listed in the Chinook Observer.

"I was just really excited," she said. "It was just perfect. This is not new to me. I understand the different dynamics of the north and south (county) regions."

Kaczmarek graduated from Washington's Evergreen State College with a degree in public administration. For seven years she worked for the Willapa Alliance in South Bend. She has also enjoyed volunteering with the Bay Center Improvement Association working on projects such as trash clean up day (which she would like to remind people is occurring on May 21). While with the Willapa Alliance, she volunteered as a foster parent in Pacific County for one year. She said that experience was one of the most rewarding things she has ever done.

She said as planner for the Monterey airport, which she described as basically a city without a mayor, she gained a solid understanding of construction issues and the permitting process.

Kaczmarek said she believes growth is a necessary part of a healthy community, providing jobs as well as an influx of new ideas, keeping an area vital and preventing it from stagnating.

But, she stressed, "if it's going to happen, it's best that it's planned well, with input from the community." Part of that she said, is ensuring the laws and regulations are followed. "It has to be by law," she said.

While she believes growth is inevitable and necessary, she also said the community's appreciation of the region's natural beauty is part of what makes this area special. "Plan (growth) well," she said, "and protect those things that need to be protected."

Kaczmarek has jumped right in to her new position, answering phone calls and questions. Sometimes, she said, just one inquiry can take hours to research and answer properly.

"I have my head in regulation books," she said. "There's just so much to do."

Her goal? "I'd like to have some kind of positive impact," she said.

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