Planning Manager Susan Johnson is leaving the Teton County Planning Department Sept. 6 after 16 years helping guide development in Jackson Hole.
Johnson is opening her own private planning firm, SJ Planning Solutions.
She leaves as the longest-serving and most senior member of a department that has recently seen substantial turnover and has lacked a director for almost a year. A top accomplishment, Johnson said, was staffing all the planning roles she oversees before her departure.
“I really wanted to feel like I was leaving the department in a good spot,” she said.
Johnson is also proud of her work on the Rafter J childcare center, affordable housing at Teton Village, the wildlife crossings master plan and a vegetation mapping project that is used every day by planners and environmental consultants.
“My hope is we build off of it and maybe do a vegetation mapping project every seven to 10 years so we can track what habitat we’re losing,” she said.
Johnson is no stranger to the complexities and controversies that come with Teton County development projects. She said she was pregnant when she began working on one project to build affordable housing for teachers in Wilson — and her kid was in first grade when it was completed. Her old boss Jeff Daugherty used to liken Johnson to a mechanic for her knack for tinkering and fixing complicated projects that run into seemingly endless obstacles.
“I really like to help people find solutions to these issues that they’re coming up against,” she said. “Any project in Teton County, you’re going to have issues because there’s so many environmental implications, and there’s a lot of people that are engaged in the planning process. Which is great, and that’s one of the reasons it’s an amazing place to be a planner because you have that engagement.”
Although the county announced in a meeting last week a new planning director was hired, County Administrator Alyssa Watkins said the status of the position is currently uncertain.
As Teton County plans for its future, Johnson feels the key is to take a “more regional approach to planning, with transportation, housing and wildlife,” although it’s likely to be challenging.
“There’s just no denying the impact that Jackson Hole has on the surrounding communities,” she said.