Nicole Mardell is the most recent addition to the City of Sisters planning staff. photo by Sue Stafford
Nicole Mardell is the most recent addition to the City of Sisters planning staff. photo by Sue Stafford
“Through that process I found a deep appreciation for the community here, the history that led to the Sisters we see today, and the shared goals for the future,” Mardell said. “When the opportunity arose (to apply for the planner position), it provided a great alignment of my goals: to work for a smaller city where a planner’s duties have a great deal of variety, while also working for a city that I care for deeply.”
A graduate of the University of Minnesota with a Bachelor of Science in Urban Studies, Mardell previously worked for Deschutes County in long-range planning (policy) and current planning (development review). Prior to that, she worked for St. Louis Park, Minnesota, a suburb in the Twin Cities area, where she focused on safe routes to school, active transportation planning, and infill development projects.
Mardell has always been interested in interdisciplinary fields — areas where she could understand a bit about a variety of other things with a bigger picture in mind.
“I was initially interested in working in the renewable energy field until a family friend told me about the Urban Studies program at the U of M, which was very small but had a dedicated team of adjunct professionals who worked for cities, transit agencies, and nonprofit community engagement groups,” Mardell said. “When I took an intro-level class, I fell in love with city planning as it felt like the perfect fit. I could gain expertise in areas related to transportation, housing, urban design, construction, and community engagement with a larger goal of making a community a great place to live for all of its residents and visitors.”
Whether it be the Sisters Community Vision or master planning a large parcel in town, Mardell is energized by working with people on bringing an idea to life in a way that meets their needs, while complying with the law and meeting the City’s broader goals.
“The most fun and enjoyable parts of my job are pre-application meetings and community meetings. Being in a room with individuals and groups interested in new projects and having new ideas — both large and small in scale — is always very refreshing and the fun part of planning,” said Mardell.
Mardell appreciates the fact that, “land-use planning in Oregon can feel so dense and overcomplicated to the average person. I enjoy being able to get out into the community to discuss land-use requirements and processes so people can interact with it on a more personal level.”
As with many other workers, the biggest challenge for Mardell is not enough time to do everything.
“The challenging part of my job is common for a lot people: time. There are so many interesting projects to tackle. I often wish I could duplicate myself to be in two places at once!”
Coming from a larger planning department at the County, Mardell is enjoying her position in Sisters where she gets to work on projects with every one of her co-workers, which she said allows her to see everyone’s workstyles and strengths on a closer level.
“The staff here at City Hall are extremely talented in the work that they do and are always willing to lend a hand to another staff member or member of the community. I feel grateful to be a part of such a dedicated team!” Mardell said.
She and her two older sisters grew up in the Twin Cities region of Minnesota with their dad, who is a nurse, and their mom, now retired from her position as a local TV producer.
“I’ve always been drawn to being a public servant. Seeing my dad work as a nurse inspired me to pursue a career in which I am able to serve my community and contribute to greater quality of life for future generations,” the planner concluded.