Why I came home, and what keeps me here
By HEATHER BROWN
When I left Sullivan County in August of 2000, I had no intentions of a return trip. Armed with my high school diploma, a steady source of funding from my loving parents and my newly acquired status of legal adult, I was bound for bigger and better things.
Fast forward to May 2004. Armed with my college diploma, a dwindling source of funding and my newly acquired status of need a job fast, I returned to my homeland to bank some cash before heading off to start my life. Meanwhile, the Sullivan County Division of Planning and Community Development (DPCD) was welcoming its new commissioner, Dr. William J. Pammer, Jr., who was returning home as well.
It is now almost six years since my story began and, of course, I never left for those bigger and better things. I landed a job working at the DPCD and quickly learned that Sullivan County was much different than I had left it. My new job was on the front lines of the growth and change our quiet upstate community was (and still is) experiencing.
The Sullivan 2020 Strategic Plan was my first glimpse at the workings of the DPCD. Sullivan 2020 is a comprehensive plan designed to help guide the growth and development of Sullivan County. It encompasses almost every project that passes through our office. The plan addresses serious issues and challenges our area is facing in the countys attempts to balance a growing population and economy with the qualities that its residents have come to love. For me, Sullivan 2020 quickly turned into Planning 101.
I dont think anyone realizes how much the DPCD takes on and accomplishes on a daily basis. Within each initiative comes a slew of projects that are vital to achieve success. For instance, farmland preservation is a major initiative that encompasses many individual projects, which range from securing funds through grant opportunities to educating and assisting farmers in diversifying their products to increase revenue. Around the time that I joined the division, the Sullivan County Farmland Preservation Plan was in its final stages of completion.
Another portion of the projects the DPCD manages on a daily basis can be summed up in one word: water. Recently, the DPCD teamed up with the U.S. Geological Services to inventory and map the water resources of Sullivan County. Knowing the extent of their available resources gives a huge advantage to planning and zoning boards trying to determine just how much development their communities can handle. The DPCD is also working on several projects related to flooding, and places an emphasis on the protection of our water resources.
In addition to the ongoing projects, the DPCD also offers education, training and technical assistance to the town, planning and zoning boards of Sullivan County. We are currently assisting two of our municipalities with updating their comprehensive plans. For me, this may be the most important aspect of what we do. The information I gather from projects such as these helps me to better understand the community that I am serving, and thus allows me to do a better job.
Working for the DPCD has given me a sense of pride and optimism for my community and my county. Born and raised in Bethel, it is wonderful to be able to live and work in my hometown near my family and friends with such a professional and pleasant staff. Personally, I am looking forward to the future of my county and feel fortunate to be a part of it.
[Heather Brown graduated from Monticello High School in 2000 and continued her education at Binghamton University, where she received her Bachelors of Science in Biology in 2004. She is currently the research analyst for the Sullivan County Division of Planning and Community Development.]
This bi-weekly column is a part of a valley-wide initiative to encourage an engaged citizenry. For a complete archive of visioning statements and for more about the visioning initiative, visit www.upperdelaware.com.