Lincoln City hosts virtual meet-and-greet with planner finalists


Three candidates leave impression on attendees

LINCOLN CITY — On Tuesday evening, before city of Lincoln City administration closed up shop for the Thanksgiving holiday, city councilors, staff, members of its planning commission and interested citizens attended a virtual meet-and-greet with the three finalists to fill the city’s planning and community director position.

The list of candidates at the meeting included Sungman “Simon” Kim, community development director for the city of Starkville, Miss.; Nicolas Gustafson, a planner with San Diego County in California; and Aaron Qualls, planning and community development director with the city of Sandpoint, Idaho. 

Each candidate was allowed 10 minutes to introduce himself to those who attended the meeting via Zoom, then answered a series of pre-written questions during a 20-minute period, hosted by city Human Resources Director Abigail Edwards.

Kim was the first to meet the public, and spoke of his more than 30 years of experience in planning and community development. The South Korean native earned a Ph.D. in landscape architecture in 2001 from the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom, and wrote his thesis on urban planning and design. Kim also holds an MBA from the University of North Florida.

Prior to working for the city of Starkville, Kim was a visiting professor at Virginia Tech, planning manager for the city of Deltona, Fla., chief planner for Clay County, Fla., and director of development services for the city of South Padre Island, Texas.

Kim said during the meeting that he recently began searching for new employment after realizing Starkville city government will see significant turnover during the next 12 months.

“I found that more than half the city aldermen will not run next time, so I foresee a lot of changes,” Kim said. “So I’ve been looking for some other locations, a place I can stay until my retirement, and I found Lincoln City. Lincoln City is a tourist destination, which I like a lot, and I thought that I could provide my vast public service (experience) there.”

Gustafson then joined the meeting, and told of his Bachelor of Science degree in urban and regional planning from Cal Poly and having earned a certificate in real estate development from New York University. During the meet-and-greet, Gustafson said he previously worked in the United Arab Emirates in both Dubai and Abu Dhabi before returning to his native southern California. 

He’s worked the last four years for San Diego County, where he put together a program for updating the county’s 25-plus community plan documents.

“Basically throughout my career I’ve been involved in both large and small-scale master planning, putting together and updating both comprehensive and community plans,” Gustafson said. He further explained how his experience would benefit Lincoln City.

“I have a wide range of both public and private experience,” he said. “I enjoy working with the public. Planning can be, although the process is simple, sometimes we over regulate and make it difficult for mom and pops. I really enjoy and think I’m good at taking a process that could be filled with red tape and hold somebody’s hand to help them through the process.”

The last candidate to be seen was Qualls, an American Institute of Certified Planners-certified planner with a master’s in urban and regional planning from Eastern Washington University, and a bachelor’s in anthropology from the University of California-Santa Cruz.

Qualls was a planning and zoning commissioner in the city of Sandpoint before joining its city council from 2013-2015. He’s remained in Sandpoint, working for two years as an associate planner before advancing to become city’s planning and economic development director in 2015.

“I have administered grants,” Qualls said. “I have facilitated internally a comprehensive plan update for the city, specifically the land-use map update, I have facilitated a broader comprehensive plan update for the city, and I have been charged with stewarding the 2009 plan that was adopted for these many years, and that has included zoning ordinances, various other policies, and working with several other developers, both local and from outside the area. I’ve presented several projects and facilitated many hearings with the planning commission and the city council.”

At the conclusion of the meeting, Lincoln City City Manager Ron Chandler described the next steps in the hiring process.

“The process at this point is, we’ll collect all (public) comments, and staff that has been reviewing this will gather together again, review all of the comments and our impressions from this meeting, add that to all of the rest and then make a decision as to who will be our new community development director,” Chandler said. 

To watch the meeting online, go to https://bit.ly/33qrDtM. To submit public comment after watching the meeting, visit https://bit.ly/33mRh2h.

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