Dianne Morris is a prime example of how, if given a chance, someone can flourish.
The City of Brookings planning director has spent the past 16 years helping craft the city into what it is today, from its commercial development to its quaint parks.
Morris retired Friday.
“I’m going to join my husband,” she said. “He’s been such a shining example of how much fun retirement can be, I just have to.”
Born and raised in Santa Barbara, Morris and her husband, Stan, moved to Brookings to build a house. Plans were to return to California; they never left.
She initially worked as a preschool teacher, dealing with “little disappointments and life,” – and in some ways, preparing her for her future in planning.
Even without a college degree, she was able to finagle a job with the Curry County Planning Department in Gold Beach.
“They saw I was interested and gave me a shot,” she said. “Starting from the ground up.”
Sometimes, that’s all it takes.
Eight years later, she was working for the City of Brookings, doing research, studying state statutes, staying up on environmental issues, creating maps, dealing with the public about confusing issues and staying calm and thinking clearly during sometimes contentious, emotionally charged hearings.
“It’s constantly changing,” she said of her work. “Every situation has a wrinkle, and no two are exactly alike.”
Recently, work has been focused on sustainability and green building standards, encouraging rain gardens and less heat-collecting pavement in projects.
“It’s nice to make use of the resources we have,” she said. “We’re not endlessly going to have bigger, better, more. We have to make use of what we have.”
Highlights of her career include infrastructure and landscaping improvements along Chetco Avenue, commercial building facade improvements with the Urban Renewal Agency, developing the GIS program, rebuilding several downtown streets, revising the Land Development Code and preparing the bike and pedestrian master plan.
Working to build the Southwestern Oregon Community College campus and securing a $1.2 million grant to build part of the bike facilities are among her most recent accomplishments.
Projects she particularly enjoyed working on include the naming of Art Walk Alley and working on the Public Art Committee to approve murals and design the Hillside Pedestrian Oasis.
Morris looks ahead to the completion of the Harris Beach multi-use path, Lucky Lane low-income housing project, the Smith River Rancheria apartment complex and the restructuring city departments to accomplish what’s needed with fewer people.
And she envisions the multi-use path and reconfiguration of Railroad Street and the addition of pocket parks as amenities the public will enjoy.
“I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to serve the community,” Morris said. “The city has a great staff, excellent leadership and thoughtful, dedicated decision-makers.”
She’s seen good times and bad, robust and slow, as she’s watched town grow over the past 34 years.
“I’d like to see Brookings become a more attractive place for the people who live here,” she said of the future – much of which she’s had a hand in creating. “More liveable for the people who live here and more inviting for the tourists to come.”
But for now, she plans to go “treasure hunting”: visiting the couple’s four children and the grandkids, biking, kayaking, skiing, motorcycling and scuba diving.
“There’s too many fun things to do,” she said. “And we love to play.”