When you meet someone who loves their job and spend some time talking with them about their work, it can be a truly memorable experience. Stacey Ray, a Senior Planner in Community Planning and Development for the City of Olympia, is one of those people who leaves their mark on many levels.
Ray, who has spent the last five years as a Senior Planner, started her career with the city 10 years ago as an Urban Forester after earning her degree from the School of Environment and Forest Sciences at the University of Washington. After a few years she was offered the opportunity to get involved in some long-range planning for the city, and she was hooked. “I just had a fire lit under me for long-range planning,” said Ray. “I’m so fortunate to have an impact on the community I live in.”
Ray’s newest project is looking at how the city will approach short-term rentals such as Airbnb and VRBO. “My job is to learn everything I can, engage everyone who might have a stake and then listen to their fears and concerns,” Ray said. “Then, when we pull the decision makers together, I can be a voice for community members.”
When asked what she likes about her job, Ray’s answer comes quickly. “Every day is different,” she said. “I’m always learning new things. A big part of my job is trying to help people get involved with their city government and help them connect with important decision makers.”
Originally considering a career in journalism, Ray turned to dreams of public service after being inspired by her mother who was involved in local politics. “I saw how a city works, and how much my mother respected the staff that helped her. Now I can help our elected officials be the best they can be for our community.” Ray considers this the best of both worlds; she can have an impact on the community, but she does not have to live a high-profile political life.
On a recent evening Ray was joined by Deputy Public Works Director, Debbie Sullivan, and Public Works Senior Program Specialist, Danelle MacEwen, to lead a meeting of neighborhood association leaders from all over Olympia. “We work hard, sometimes evenings and weekends, because we care about the city,” said Ray. Sullivan, who has worked with Ray for about five years, noted that “Stacey is positive, creative and has high standards. She is always willing to step in and help.”
When asked about working with Ray, MacEwen agreed, noting that she admires Ray’s dedication to her career and her city and her willingness to improve herself. “She is willing to try new ideas, always has a great attitude and is fun to work with,” MacEwen said.
Ray and Tyler, her husband of 12 years, have grown to consider Olympia their home since moving here soon after their honeymoon. Now parents to two young boys, they love to take advantage of all Olympia has to offer, from free family events to city parks and playgrounds. “We love to be outside, taking the boys for walks, and hiking in the summer.” Even after recounting a particularly challenging camping trip last summer with a newborn and a toddler that would have ended most families’ interest in camping forever, Ray’s positive attitude shines when she notes with a smile that they are ready to try camping again this summer.
Ray is always looking for ways to improve city government by thinking about how to encourage leadership within the organization and compete with the private sector to attract new talent who will want to give back to the community. Ray believes the answer to keeping the next generation of leaders around is to help people explore their leadership potential, because she knows it is about the skills and strengths of the person rather than the position title.
This article is one of a four-part series about the contributions of public employees to our community. The series is sponsored by WSECU, in part to support Public Service Recognition Week, which runs May 7 – 13, 2017.