This I Believe

Leslie - Irvine, California
Entered on June 6, 2006
Age Group: 50 - 65

I believe in making the world a better place, one place at a time. I don’t know where this compulsion came from, maybe from my grandma, who encouraged me to leave wherever I went better than when I arrived or maybe it was the wilderness campouts my family took me on as a child, developing a deep respect for the land.

I don’t know, but when my mother enrolled me in an outdoor camp at 9 years old, and I explored different environments daily, I was captivated. I visited great, hushed forests of magnificent trees, an English Garden with giant, water lily ponds, a stream filled with wondrous creatures. Or maybe it was watching, as a teenager, the rush to build high-rises along the beachfront near my home in order to beat the Coastal Zone Act’s adoption. So when I went to college, I studied Biology; it was the 70’s and environmentalism was taking root, so I switched to Environmental Science, and a career passion was born.

I am fortunate to truly love my work. In my first job as an Environmental Planner in upstate New York, I helped small towns create development controls, wresting autonomy back from the controversial, Adirondack Park Agency, who some believed had illegally usurped local authority. Later, I became the first City Planner for a small Colorado town, growing so rapidly it couldn’t provide adequate services. I crafted a growth control plan, tying growth to service availability. I continue my work today with a private planning/architecture firm and am privileged to participate in fascinating projects the world over.

My job’s best part is to visit a completed project, to witness the fruit of my efforts. Ford Park in Vail, with its exquisite Alpine Garden, took over a year to design, hammering out competing interests in many community meetings. The refurbishment of a Girl Scout Camp; we celebrated our improvements as the sun set against the spectacular mountain backdrop. The new city near Jakarta, Indonesia, planned as a “community of the arts” splendid with public art and fulfilling a burgeoning need for middle class housing. The new LDS Temple in Newport Beach, the development committee so grateful to realize their 15-year dream, they placed the design team’s photos in the building’s cornerstone.

Over the years, I haven’t been able to remain an absolutist about my beliefs. I have had to compromise, sometimes serving as the developer’s conscience and pushing to respect the land. It has been challenging, but I have helped build needed facilities, preserve environments, and even create beauty in the built environment.

I am excited anew as our company has volunteered to design a crisis center/school for orphaned children in Kenya. And maybe, if our illustrations help garner enough donations, I’ll have the good fortune to attend the school’s dedication next year. I can think of no greater honor. I am grateful to have this as my life’s work, making the world a better place, one place at a time. This I believe.