For Sanzone, it’s a one-woman show
March 11, 2002
A year from now, if all goes according to her business plan, Sheri Sanzone hopes to have two employees working with her on a number of local development projects.
Blue-Green LLC, the name of Sanzone’s new company, is the latest addition to the area’s lengthy roster of private planning firms.
Like most of the planning consultants, Sanzone offers land use planning and project management services. She also specializes in landscape architecture, which makes her a little different than many in the field.
But what makes Sanzone’s enterprise unique is the fact that it’s a one-woman show, instead of the standard formula one-man show that can be found in most planning offices in Aspen.
“When I first thought of doing this, I saw that it was mostly guys in the business. It looked entrenched, but they have all been so helpful,” Sanzone said.
For whatever reason, the overwhelming majority of private planning consultants in Aspen, especially those in business for themselves, are men. The yellow pages section under “Planners” is filled mostly with men: Stan Clauson, Glen Horn, Raul Gawrys, Mitch Haas, Francis Krizmanich, Tom Newland, Alan Richmond, Sunny Vann, Joeseph Wells.
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“Some of the first jobs I’ve gotten is through word of mouth from those guys or helping them out on projects,” Sanzone said.
She has been in business for just over two months. She’s worked on projects with Sunny Vann and Mitch Haas, an old planning hand and a relative newcomer.
She is currently working on a subdivision application that will likely result in her first appearance, later this spring, before the Pitkin County commissioners. When that appearance does occur she will become one of just two full-time, private planners in the upper valley who also happen to be women.
But even if the state of private planning looks and smells male, Sanzone, as a woman in the industry, is by no means alone.
In the private sector, Sanzone joins Alice Davis, the first name of the firm Davis Horn. Davis has been a planning consultant for the better part of the last decade, teaming up with her husband Glen Horn on a variety of projects.
Davis isn’t quite as well known as Horn, but she is an integral part of the Davis Horn team. Horn admits that much of the key research and analysis that goes into their work is done by his wife.
Leslie Lamont, the former county commissioner, works for OTAK, the Portland-based consulting agency with an office in Carbondale. The company works on small and large development projects and regional transportation planning.
In the public sector, Cindy Houben is the boss of the Pitkin County Community Development Department, and Julie Ann Woods heads up Aspen’s planning department. And the county’s planning staff includes Suzanne Wolfe, Tamara Pregl and Ellen Sassano (along with Brian McNellis, Ezra Louthis and Lance Clarke).
Some of Aspen’s most influential and successful women outside the planning world actually started their careers as planners. Aspen Institute Vice President Amy Margerum, former Aspen Chamber Resort Association president Diane Moore and Rocky Mountain Institute Executive Director Marty Pickett are among the most prominent.
“The business itself is very male-oriented – land use attorneys and consultants and the like,” Lamont said.
Although she’s not sure why that is, Lamont points out that public sector planning, which for much of the modern history of the county and city has been dominated by women, tends to be on the cutting edge of planning.
“I can do as good a job as anyone doing this job in the valley,” Sanzone said of her credentials and experience. “Besides, I’ve always wanted to do this – go into business for myself.”
Unlike most of her male colleagues in the private planning sector, Sanzone doesn’t have experience as public planner. She’s spent the last five years at the Design Workshop as a project planner and landscape architect. Prior to her stint at Design Workshop, Sanzone worked as a private consultant for a firm in Philadelphia.
She was part of the team at Design Workshop that worked with the Aspen Skiing Co. on the redesign of the Snowmass Club. Out of the area, she worked on the redevelopment of Big Mountain in Whitefish, Mont.
To gain an understanding of how land use is done in Pitkin County, she joined the Pitkin County Planning and Zoning Commission and the Aspen/Pitkin County Housing Authority. She may also be able to glean a few tips from her husband, Chris Bendon, who works as a planner for the city of Aspen.
“I would say she’s a very competent planner with a broad background who will be good for the community,” Pitkin County’s Houben said. “She’s done her homework by volunteering her time on community boards.”
So there’s a lot that makes Sanzone different than her competitors, especially the nexus of her gender and profession. “That’s just part of what made me different than everyone else,” Sanzone said.
Whether it will help her attract clients and succeed remains to be seen.
“Personally, it’s never been my experience to think I’m getting something more because I’m a woman,” Lamont said.