Saturday, April 13, 2024

Walter named permanent director of Chelan County Community Development

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WENATCHEE — Deanna Walter, Chelan County assessor and interim director of Chelan County Community Development, is the new permanent director of the county’s planning and building department.

Walter, who was appointed as interim director of Community Development in March 2022, will step down from her elected position on March 31 and take over the role as the department’s director on April 1.

The Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) signed a contract for employment with Walter on Monday. “This past year, Deanna has brought stability and efficiencies to Community Development. She has filled six positions while prioritizing cross-training and better customer service at all levels,” said Commissioner Tiffany Gering, BOCC

chairwoman. “The board has called upon her twice now to step in and lead that department at times when it needed her leadership style the most – all while also serving as an elected official. In a time when it is difficult to hire planning professionals, much less directors, the board is fortunate that Deanna agreed to take on this position in a permanent capacity.”

Serving in both capacities was not a long-term solution for Chelan County or its citizens, Walter said. “This was a very hard decision, one I did not take lightly. I loved being assessor, but I also recognize I can help Community Development, knowing the Assessor’s Office is healthy,” Walter said. “The Assessor’s Office is efficient, it’s customer service-driven and the employees there are a cohesive team. My decision to leave is based on my confidence that my team will thrive without me. I will work to bring these same qualities to Community Development to benefit the public we serve.”

Walter’s background includes:

• Born and raised in Wenatchee, she has more than 27 years of land use experience. She holds two bachelor’s degrees, one in actuarial science from Central Washington University and another in urban and regional planning from Eastern Washington University.

• Walter started her land use career as a planner, first working in Kootenai County and later Spokane County. In 2002 she was hired by Chelan County Community Development as its assistant director. She left Community Development in 2005, moving to the private development sector.

• In 2009, Walter was recruited by former Assessor Russ Griffith to be the chief appraiser in the Chelan County Assessor’s Office. Upon Griffith’s retirement in 2010, Walter was promoted to chief deputy of the Assessor’s Office. In September 2011, she was appointed county assessor. She first won election to office in 2012; she was most recently re-elected to office last year.

  • Walter served two terms as president of the Washington State Association of County Assessor. In that role, she worked with legislators and the Washington Department of Revenue on legislation and best practices for appraisal and program administration across the state. Over the years, she has developed an expertise in levies, which require a special analytical skillset.
  • Commissioners first appointed Walter as interim director of Community Development in February 2020 to reorganize and stabilize the department before new Director Jim Brown was hired later that year. She continued as interim assistant director until September 2020 to support the new director and onboard the new assistant director. Then, when former interim director Chris Young stepped down in March 2022, Walter was again asked to serve as interim director.

Since 2010, Community Development has had six directors or interim directors, not including Walter’s two stints as interim director. This is a fact not lost on commissioners, Gering said. “These positions are difficult to fill. It’s a difficult department to manage because of the many moving parts, both internal and external,” Gering said. “But Community Development is not the same department it was just two years ago. The board is confident that under Deanna’s continued guidance, this department is only going to continue to grow while meeting the needs of our community.”

Next, the BOCC will appoint someone as a temporary interim county assessor by April

1. The Republican Central Committee will then provide the names of three candidates to the BOCC, which will appoint an interim assessor from the recommendation to serve until the 2023 election is certified. People interested in running for the position can file for election May 15-19. The new assessor then will serve the remaining three years of the vacated term.

As for Walter, she sees herself in the director’s position until she retires in about eight years. “I was born and raised in this valley, and I’ve been a part of the county family since 2002. I’m committed to the county; I’ve devoted many years to serving its citizens,” she said. “To the community, I’d add that cultural change in an office doesn’t happen overnight, but we are hoping the public sees we are a work in progress and getting better every day.”

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