When Cindy Houben began her work as a community planner 37 years ago, the City of Aspen and Pitkin County had a joint planning department.
“I thought it was the best thing in the world,” Houben said of the once consolidated planning department, where she worked for 10 years. “The jurisdictions were together and made decisions that impacted each other and considered that with their planners.”
Today, the city and county have their own community development departments. For the past 27 years, Houben served as director of the Pitkin County Community Development Department and announced her upcoming retirement on Wednesday.
Houben will officially retire from his position on July 1, but will remain in a limited capacity until 2022 to help with ongoing projects.
“Cindy has brought vision, leadership, Southern charm and her passion to community development in Pitkin County during her distinguished career,” Pitkin County Executive Jon Peacock said in a news release Wednesday. “Throughout her career, Cindy has facilitated community planning, created innovative land use planning and building codes that protect our natural environment and have preserved our unique community character. Cindy will be greatly missed and I look forward to celebrating her service as she embarks on this next chapter of her life.
Houben grew up in Tuscaloosa and later graduated from the University of Alabama. While in college, Houben also worked as an intern for the Bureau of Land Management and continued to work briefly for the federal agency after graduating.
“I was actually on my way to Alaska because the BLM gave me a job in Alaska after I graduated,” Houben recalled. “I thought, what am I doing? I’m just going back to Colorado.
After briefly working for the BLM in Glenwood Springs, Houben moved on to her role in the valley as a community planner and later director of the county’s community development department.
While serving as a city planner and director of a planning department, Houben was instrumental in the creation and implementation of the county’s rural and remote zoning designation. Intended to protect the county’s abundance of rural and remote land, the zoning classification comes up regularly during land use issues, including recently regarding short-term rental regulations in unincorporated Pitkin County.
“I’ve always spent a lot of time on long-term planning,” Houben said.
In 2018, Houben became one of the first women in Colorado to be inducted into the American Institute of Certified Planners’ College of Scholars.
“[Houben] has such an exceptional record here working for the county, and her departure leaves big shoes to fill because she has done an exemplary job,” Commissioner Steve Child said shortly after Houben’s retirement announcement. . “She will be missed working for the county for sure.”
Pitkin County will begin its search for a new director of community development next month.
“I’ve had such wonderful people I’ve worked with,” Houben said. “I will miss the daily camaraderie and the fascinating and nurturing environment we have in Pitkin County.”