Town employee leaving ever-changing position to attend college

By Tom Gresham
Observer staff

When Lara Dumond was hired to work in the Williston planning office, her job title was Conservation Commission Liaison. In the interest of brevity and clarity, that was later cut down to Conservation Coordinator.

The placard on her office door, meanwhile, reads Planning Assistant. And, when Dumond vacates her position next month to attend law school, her replacement in the planning office will bear yet another title: Environmental Planner.

The changing names of Dumond’s position reflect the shifting nature of the position during her year and a half in Williston. The scope of Dumond’s work expanded steadily during her stint, and the post will grow from a 30-hour-a-week job to a 40-hour-a-week position on July 1.

As Dumond said, the hours will change in description only. She has been working a full schedule since she arrived.

“There was always lots of work,” she said.

The direction of the work changed with a combination of the needs of the department and the abilities of the staff. Town Planner Lee Nellis said the planning and zoning department enjoys the flexibility to adapt, and Dumond’s versatility — Nellis calls her “phenomenally productive” — meant she handled a variety of responsibilities.

“It’s a small world here in Williston,” Nellis said. “We don’t find ourselves handicapped by job descriptions. We just do what we can do to do the job.”

When former Zoning Administrator Scott Gustin stepped down, Dumond began to work increasingly on zoning and development review questions, helping with what she said are the “overwhelming number of building permits, site plans and development applications.”

Then, after the town hired D.K. Johnston as Gustin’s replacement, Dumond ceded Historic Preservation responsibilities — one of her original core duties — because Johnston had a background in the field. It also allowed Dumond to focus more on writing grants. “Lara is a great grant writer and she brought in tons of money,” Nellis said.

Nellis said Dumond’s work in her position will color the responsibilities of her replacement, but he expects the position to continue to evolve based on the skills of the new hire. For instance, he or she will spend more time on stormwater regulations than Dumond did.

Dumond, who will attend the University of Utah in the fall, said she feels “like the current challenge for the town is coming to terms with the fact that it is no longer a small town and (needs to) make an investment in its municipal facilities and staffing capacity to handle the volume of development.”

She said the lack of “warm bodies” hurts the planning staff in enforcement of conditions of permits and with handling the volume of permits.

Dumond, who worked extensively on land conservation, also said she believes the town should work to preserve the town’s rural character by creating better incentives for large landowners attempting to make a living farming their land.

Dumond said her brother, a former UVM student, joked when she took the job in Williston that “I didn’t know they do planning in Williston.” However, Dumond said she felt from her first interviews that the town has “a solid vision for managing the inevitable growth of the town.”

“Williston is an interesting place and has a lot of challenging planning issues,” Dumond said. “It’s been an exciting place to work.”