Commission welcomes two new planners
- Gunnar Olson
- West Linn Tidings - News
It's the same story for both Bob Martin and Michelle Wittenbrink: They got a taste of civic involvement, and they were hungry for more.
Martin and Wittenbrink are the newest faces on the seven-member West Linn Planning Commission, having taken office in January. They join Commissioners Michael Babbitt, Paul Fisher, John Kovash, Michael Bonoff and Michael Jones.
Martin replaces Gary Hitesman, whose term expired. Martin will serve a four-year term.
Wittenbrink replaces Gary Stark, who resigned before his term was complete. Wittenbrink will fill in for the year remaining in Stark's term.
Meet the new commissioners.Bob Martin
Martin, 62, who lives in the Bolton neighborhood, said he got his first taste of civic service about a year ago, when the planning commission was considering regulations on personal-use docks on the river. He said the city code on docks was unclear, and that the commission wanted to clarify it to protect the beauty of the river.
But Martin - who lives on the river - recognized the potential of such a code infringing on the rights of property owners. He organized a committee of owners of river lots to represent their interests before the commission.
'Where do you balance the individual's rights and desires with the public good?' he said. 'It's typical of many of the questions (facing the commissioners).'
He said he was impressed with the wisdom, dignity and fairness of the commissioners, not to mention the time commitment. When he was asked to join the commission, he felt obliged.
'How can I say no?' he said.
Martin owns and operates a consulting company, working with such clients as Exxon and Motorola. His business is developing 'simulation models' on a computer for projects like the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, such that the companies can know what's going to happen hour by hour over many years.
He holds a doctorate in system science and engineering management from Portland State University.
His wife, Mary, owns West Linn Montessori School. They have two children.
He brings a unique philosophy to the planning commission: 'First we create our environment,' he said, 'and then the environment creates us. ... So we want to create an environment that helps bring the community to life.'
Wittenbrink, 38, also of the Bolton neighborhood, is as active as the best in town.
She skis. She windsurfs. She bikes. And more.
Born and raised in Colorado, she has lived all around the Northwest.
But about eight years ago, she left Seattle for West Linn. She said she loved the city's open spaces and local businesses - and the recreational opportunities.
And she wanted to see the city stay healthy.
Wittenbrink joined the West Linn Sustainability Task Force, which looked at ways the city could improve environmentally, reduce its carbon footprint and develop green building strategies.
It was her first involvement with city government, and then she started looking for more. The planning commission was right up her alley.
Wittenbrink is a civil engineer by profession. She works for Otak Inc., an engineering and architectural firm in Lake Oswego.
She has worked on several projects for the city of Lake Oswego, and she said she regularly works on low-impact development.
She said West Linn is lacking tax sources and the city ought to do more to promote business.
'We need to figure out a way to entice more businesses (to the city) - and not just home businesses,' she said.
She earned a civil engineering degree from Oregon State University and an urban planning degree from the University of Colorado.
She has a 7-year-old daughter.
Wittenbrink wants to assure that cooler heads prevail on the commission.
'I see that in a lot of applications there's a lot of emotion involved,' she said, 'and I want to make sure our decisions aren't driven by emotion, but by what the code states.'