Britany Waddell doesn’t speak a foreign language at work, but she might as well be using one. In her job as Planning Director for the Town of Chapel Hill, N.C., her work revolves around site plans, easements, variances, and zoning permits, and, of course, the all-important UDO.
Don’t know about the UDO? For the record, it stands for Unified Development Ordinance. But don’t worry, Waddell will translate for you, because she sees a big part of her job as helping communities understand a process that—while contentious and complex at times—can have a lasting and beneficial impact on people’s lives.
“I always joke that there are some true parallels to community relations and medieval history,” says Waddell, who should know, seeing as she majored in the subject at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “The parallels are principled arguments and constant conflict. Each side has a deep belief in their cause, and often there is no communication to find middle ground, and most issues escalate.”
A year after graduating from UNC, Waddell got her first job in the field as a Community Development Planner for Monroe, N.C. There, she managed relationships with more than 20 neighborhood organizations and found she had a passion for helping people navigate the process and find that middle ground. Later, she served for 10 years as Director of Community Relations at George Washington University.
Waddell entered planning from the community engagement side. She rounded out her knowledge of this complex and critical field at Georgetown.
“One of the things that I really appreciated was that I got exposure to a lot of the great minds of planning in D.C.—past planning directors and folks you wouldn’t normally get the opportunity to meet,” Waddell says. “But they were the ones teaching our classes.”