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City planner moving on after 18 years

Berkley to change position’s title

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published May 2, 2017

 The city of Berkley is searching for a new city planner after Amy Vansen, who’s served for the last 18 years in the position, was hired as the director of information and programs for the Michigan chapter of the American Planning Association.

The city of Berkley is searching for a new city planner after Amy Vansen, who’s served for the last 18 years in the position, was hired as the director of information and programs for the Michigan chapter of the American Planning Association.

Photo provided by the city of Berkley

BERKLEY — The city of Berkley soon will be searching for a new city planner, as the current position holder will be leaving for a new job.

Amy Vansen, Berkley’s city planner for the last 18 years, will serve as the director of information and programs for the Michigan chapter of the American Planning Association, which is “a nonprofit education, research and advocacy organization that (is) committed to urban, suburban, regional and rural planning,” according to a press release.

Vansen said that the director’s position is a “great opportunity” for her.

“I’ve been a member of the Michigan Association of Planning since I moved to the state of Michigan,” she said. “Andrea Brown is a fantastic executive director, and it was a great opportunity.”

Vansen will be staying on the job in Berkley until a new person is hired for it, and whomever is chosen will fill her duties under the new title of “community and economic development director.”

City Manager Matthew Baumgarten, who will be in charge of hiring Vansen’s replacement, said the city has a chance to broaden what this next person’s job is going to be, hence the rebranding of the title.

“What we’re looking for is somebody to provide administrative oversight and planning function, and then oversight for building and code enforcement as well,” he said. “So what Amy does now, she’s head of that department. And so we’re looking for somebody who really can put more emphasis on the administration of things.”

Baumgarten said having the position title changed to a community and economic development director puts more emphasis on the full scope of the work.

“The type of job duties that are assembled underneath that department are really more in line with what you would find in a community and economic development coordinator, or in our case a director,” he said.

Over the past year, Vansen had come under increased criticism from Berkley residents from their belief that she gave preferential treatment to builders that work in the city. This came to a head during last year’s conversations between the city, its Planning Commission and residents on issues related to a form-based code and a master plan amendment.

When asked if the criticism had any effect on her accepting a new job, Vansen said that she had been looking for a new opportunity for several years, as her children are old enough now for her to look elsewhere for work.

“The city of Berkley and my part-time status provided me a lot of flexibility, and I’m very grateful to the city of Berkley for allowing me that flexibility that I was able to be a stay-at-home mom for half the time and still do my job,” she said. “This is a new opportunity, and I’m looking forward to a new chapter.”

Baumgarten said that as a whole, City Hall is overhauling its entire operation from top to bottom, and is trying to make a turn toward being more communicative and making sure it is more inclusive of residents’ voices.

With the criticism that the city received last year, the city manager said it did play a part in changing the position title.

“But not anything specifically targeting the Building and Planning departments, but more so this is a trend that has been my marching orders since I became manager last year, from the City Council to say we want to move in a direction that allows the residents to know that their voices are heard, their voices are taken into account, and then communicate on how we put action to those desires,” he said.