City hires Hugo as planning director

Sequim Gazette

Interim planning director Christopher Hugo was chosen as the City of Sequim’s new planning director this week.


He’s served in the interim position since March 28 and officially becomes director on Friday, May 13.

Hugo said his intent was to compete for the permanent position following former interim planning director Joe Irvin’s departure.

City Manager Steve Burkett said Hugo won out over three other candidates and the selection was based on Hugo’s passion for helping communities find good futures and his experience in working as a planning manager and director for city, county, regional and state governments in communities of 200 to 200,000 residents.


“While all of the candidates had excellent planning knowledge and experience in Washington cities, Chris was the best match for the challenges and opportunities we face in planning for Sequim’s future,” Burkett said. “I am pleased we are able to attract someone with Chris’s depth of experience and skills to serve as our new planning director.”


Hugo said his short-term priorities include installing new protocols for the permitting environment and for tracking projects, and to maintain an organized file system to improve efficiency.


His biggest challenge, he said, is the new, updated comprehensive plan.


“It’ll look entirely new but still reflect basic values from 2006 plan,” Hugo said.


Other goals are making some zoning changes and adopting the downtown plan.


Hugo said the application process recently closed for another planning position, either a Planner II or Senior Planner, depending on what he sees from applicants.


“We are such a small team that we can’t afford to hire anyone other than a professional with a deep skill set in planning technology and broad community development experience,” he said.


“Plus, they must be a good fit for our city and organizational culture. If we don’t find these qualities in this set of applicants, I am prepared to advertise again, likely nationally.”


Hugo worked for 22 years with the city planning department in Spokane, his hometown, where he led several planning initiatives, including the city’s first urban design planning, first neighborhood planning and first planning under the State Growth Management Act.


From 2000-2006, he served as Bremerton’s community development director. Hugo directed the preparation of a new comprehensive plan, a new zoning code and updates to shoreline and critical area regulations, as well as restructuring the permitting environment.


His company SoundPlans LLC recently consulted with Fife and Black Diamond to craft their first mixed-use zone, with Snohomish County on its urban zoning reform and on drafting an overhaul of Lakewood’s sign code.


Hugo’s projects have been recognized with four Honor Awards from the American Planning Association, Washington state chapter.


Hugo said after revisiting Sequim he quickly became attached to the city’s vitality and opportunity to grow while preserving its small-town qualities.


“I am greatly impressed with the quality of leadership guiding the city — the city council, volunteer boards and the leadership team of city manager and senior staff is uncommon for a city of 6,600 people,” Hugo said.


“I’ve found all employees to be energetic, friendly and very capable. Working for Sequim meets my primary career ambition to contribute planning leadership to help communities achieve their community’s vision.”


He hopes to work here at least 5-7 years.


The City of Sequim’s Public Works and Planning Department, 615 N. Fifth Ave., can be reached at 683-4908.


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