Sophia Cassam has amassed an impressive resume during her three short years working for San Juan County. Hired by the Department of Community Development right after graduating from the University of Washington, Cassam has led multiple large planning efforts including the recent Comprehensive Plan Update.
What’s it like to be a planner in San Juan County?
“Because we’re a smaller jurisdiction, I’ve been given a lot of responsibility and opportunities to grow. In most larger jurisdictions, you can get cornered into a specialty in one area. Here, I get to do it all.”
Cassam has worked on a variety of projects including managing the annual docket process, helping work on vacation rental regulations, leading efforts to write the County’s Shoreline Cumulative Effects Evaluation methodology (which resulted in a $90,000 grant from the Department of Ecology), and most notably, leading the final stages of adopting the 2036 Comprehensive Plan Update.
What was it like working on the Comprehensive Plan Updates?
“I grew a lot over the three years I was working on the Comp Plan. I learned how to manage complex projects and what makes good, actionable policy. I also used to be so nervous and anxious about public speaking. But as the process went along, I became more confident in what I knew and trusted myself. Since then, I’m much more comfortable with public speaking and am proud of the work I’ve accomplished with the County.”
Cassam frequently led meetings and presentations to the County Council throughout her work on the Comp Plan and is excited to put her project management skills to use while contributing to upcoming development code projects.
What do you enjoy about working for the County?
“I love distilling complicated information and making it accessible to people. I enjoy taking complex processes and regulations and breaking them down into something folks are going to understand and be able to participate in. It’s gratifying and a fun challenge.”
“I also really like knowing that the work that I’m doing is going to shape the County over time. It happens slowly, and the change isn’t visible right away, but it’s cool knowing it will have a long-term impact.”
How do you spend your free time?
“I like to mountain bike, free dive, facilitate ladies’ night at the climbing gym, and I’m learning silver smithing skills from a local artist. I’ve found the islands to be a great place to make friends and I love hosting people at my house. One of my favorite things is to make spaces for other people to enjoy themselves and get to know each other.”
This profile is part of a series spotlighting San Juan County employees, the work they do, and the difference they make. Follow along each month to meet the staff responsible for making the Islands a wonderful place to live, work, and play.