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City planning director to retire

Denise Frisbee leaves to spend more time on other endeavors, including PCC board
by: Vern Uyetake Denise Frisbee served as the Portland Community College board chairwoman in 2009 and will serve again in 2012.

Denise Frisbee lives a well-rounded life.

A member of the Oregon State Bar, two book groups, a drama reading group and the Portland Community College Board of Directors, Frisbee has always had many pursuits. But the pursuit that takes up the most time - her job as director of planning and building services for the city of Lake Oswego - is about to come to an end. Frisbee, 63, will retire at the end of January.

Frisbee will use the extra time to focus on her role at PCC, where she will begin as board chairwoman in 2012.

'I feel fortunate that I have another arena to step into and feel I can contribute,' she said. 'I'm going to be enthused to have the time to do more. (PCC) deserves that kind of attention.'

Not to mention that Frisbee will have more time to spend on recreational pursuits such as white water rafting, tandem canoeing, biking and walking the Iron Mountain trail.

'Unlike me, Denise gets off the couch and lives a very active life,' said Jean Maurer, a Multnomah County Circuit Court judge and member of Frisbee's book club. 'She actually reads all of the books in (the) book club and more. Whereas I am looking up summaries on the Internet, she has read the book, underlined the memorable phrases and thought about the author's perspective. She does this while working full time, taking care of her family and participating in bike rides, yoga, etc. She is amazing.'

Maurer raved about the intellect Frisbee contributes to book club discussions.

'She possesses an ability to engage in scholarly analysis of virtually any issue,' Maurer said.

Frisbee has used her talents in many different jobs throughout her career - from shepherding an education nonprofit organization to serving as city attorney in Sisters, hearing land-use cases in Deschutes County and working in a private attorney's practice.

Working where she lives keeps Frisbee 'grounded'

Frisbee was recruited by former city manager Doug Schmitz to work for the city in 2004 'assisting people with application and massaging special cases.' Then, when Alex McIntyre was hired as city manager a few years later, his former job as director of planning and building services was open. McIntyre hired Frisbee to fill the position.

Under her watch, the department has undergone an audit and code reorganization. Frisbee has also aimed to make the services in her department more customer friendly by producing informational pamphlets and launching online permitting and applications.

'That will really be helpful for the city going forward,' she said.

She has also worked on the launch of the comprehensive plan process and the city's natural resources protection program.

Frisbee will end her professional career in the community where she has spent most of her life. She moved to Lake Oswego from Colorado in 1973 to attend law school at Lewis and Clark College. Other than five years in Bend, Frisbee has lived in Lake Oswego ever since.

'It's really been great working in my own community,' said Frisbee, who has lived in several local neighborhoods. 'It keeps you grounded. ... You can really care because it's your community.'

Her husband, Robert, grew up locally and graduated from Lake Oswego High School. Her two children, now in their 20s, were also able to attend LOHS.

'It's just such a friendly, pretty town - small enough that you can put your arms around it,' Frisbee said.

Frisbee has enjoyed working for the city of Lake Oswego because it is a 'well-managed city. You're not worrying constantly about the bottom dropping out from underneath you.'

Also, the company is nice, she said describing her coworkers as 'lively, warm, smart and interesting.'

Education involvement began locally

Frisbee's interest in education began with local involvement. In the late 1990s, she became interested in education issues that the Legislature was addressing, and so she went to work for the Lake Oswego School District as an attorney, government and community liaison. Then, in 1999, she spearheaded the Statewide Organization for Schools, garnering community support for public schools.

During this time she got to know Norma Jean Durmand, the former PCC board member for Zone 1. When Durmand retired, Frisbee decided to run for the seat, winning her first election in 2005. Since then, she served as board chairwoman once, in 2009, and will serve in that role for the second time in 2012. She also served as board liaison for the PCC bond campaign during the 2008 election.

Frisbee, re-elected to her seat in 2009, meets monthly in a public meeting with the seven-member board.

She represents the communities of Lake Oswego, Tigard and Tualatin, and the communities certainly receive their share of services from PCC. Last year, students from Lake Oswego and Lakeridge high schools earned 1,000 college credits through PCC - the equivalent of $85,000 in tuition.

The number of high school students that take classes at PCC each year is more than the student population of the largest high school in Oregon

'We serve more high school students than any high school in the state,' said Frisbee.

The college saves a lot of families money. Some high school students are even able to graduate with enough college credits completed to begin university classes as sophomores.

Many college students transfer to a four-year university after completing courses at PCC. In fact, 40 percent of the Portland State University junior class is made up of one-time PCC students.

'Our kids who start here outperform students at state schools who started as freshmen,' Frisbee said.

She said PCC is a top community college in the country, serving 93,000 students per year or the equivalent of 26,000 full-time students. The enrollment at PCC has increased 40 percent in the last four years.

The college's education offerings range from high school degree completion - through the Gateway to College program, which can brag about its 80 percent success rate - to retraining mid-career professionals for jobs such as medical technicians, welders and nurses.