Meet Joy Hill - Director of Planning and Zoning in Park County, Wyoming

Clay Butte at Beartooth Lake in the Beartooth Mountains. Photo by Patti Umphlett.

Clay Butte at Beartooth Lake in the Beartooth Mountains. Photo by Patti Umphlett.

Joy Hill has served as the Director of Planning and Zoning in Park County, Wyoming since June 2018. Prior to that, she was the Land Planner/GIS Manager for Big Horn County, Wyoming for six years.

Joy Hill

Joy Hill

What did you want to be when you grew up?

A science teacher. Since I am just now growing up, I figure there is still a chance to fulfill that dream!

How did you get into the planning profession?

I had been working as a geographic information systems (GIS) consultant for 8 years near Seattle, WA. My family unexpected relocated to Wyoming and soon after the Land Planner/GIS Manager position opened at Big Horn County. Since the expectation was that the job would entail 80% GIS work and 20% planning work, the position was well suited for someone with my professional and educational background. Ironically, in my six years at Big Horn County, I estimate that 80% of my work was planning and 20% was GIS.

Describe your planning background and education.

I have a Bachelor of Science degree in Geo-Environmental Studies with a minor in Biology from Shippensburg University, PA. I have a Master of Science degree in Geology and secondary education certification from Northern Illinois University. Very little of my coursework actually involved the planning field. I worked as a GIS intern while obtaining both of my degrees. I have found both my degrees and my GIS skills very valuable in the rural planning arena; however, most of my actual planning experience came from on-the-job learning, first as the planner in Big Horn County and now in Park County.

Describe your favorite planning project.

I have participated in several projects, but I have found that the relationships I developed while working on various projects to be my favorite thing about being a planner. One day I work with Commissioners and municipal officials, the next day the Sheriff’s department, Assessor or emergency management, and then I embark on an adventure with various federal entities such as the Forest Service, the Census Bureau or FEMA. Planning is not a stagnant discipline - I wear many hats and change gears hour to hour dealing with various types of issues (e.g., land development, subdivisions, floodplain administration, joint planning area considerations, land research, zoning violations, regulation updates…I could go on). I have also found that I spend more time than I ever imagined possible with the County Attorney’s Office examining state statutes, case law and local regulations. The title “Planner” truly covers a plethora of disciplines and areas of expertise; no two planners are alike.

Why do you belong to the Western Planner?

Heart Mountain in the distance from Chief Joseph Scenic Highway.  Photo by Patti Umphlet.

Heart Mountain in the distance from Chief Joseph Scenic Highway. Photo by Patti Umphlet.

I belong to the Western Planner because, as a planner with little formal education in planning, I find so much value in interacting with and reading about other planners around the region and learning about the challenges and successes they have faced on the job. Participating in annual meetings and conferences is invaluable to me. It gives me an opportunity to hear about projects that other planners are working on, contribute to discussions about current planning issues and learn about laws or legal issues pertinent to rural planning. I always look forward to upcoming meetings because the presentations are relevant and educational and mingling with other planners is a huge learning experience in itself.

What is your favorite piece of advice given to you?

A former colleague of mine (Retired Navy Lieutenant Commander, James Raulsome) once told me, “Surround yourself with smart people.” I have never forgotten that advice and always try to reach out to experts or people more qualified than me in different areas to get answers or solutions to problems beyond my reach.

What piece of advice would you give someone just out of college and starting into the planning profession?

Your education is very important, but your education means so much more when it is paired with hands-on experience. Get out and experience the workplace and your surroundings through internships and volunteering and never be afraid to do research and ask questions. Build your resume with rich and varied experiences that present you as a well-rounded individual who isn’t afraid to explore different avenues. Learn how to write well and speak well – those two skills alone can set you apart from the competition.

What are you known for in the office?

Honestly? My love of consuming and sharing chocolate! LOL. Otherwise, professionally speaking, I’m pretty strict about conducting business “by the book.” My primary focus is being responsive to the public, educating them about our processes and assisting them with reaching their goals

Published in February 2019

Paul Moberly