Newsmakers in 2019: Cindy Steinhauser

December 30, 2018

Less than a month after stepping into her new role with the city, Cindy Steinhauser is already focused on a key goal.

She’s been charged with helping create “the most innovative services department in the nation.”

She acknowledges it’s a lofty goal.

“I like a challenge, and I’m fiercely competitive, so we’re going to do it,” she said.

How that long-term goal is eventually achieved will start unfolding in 2019.

As Rochester’s first-ever community development director, Steinhauser will start building her team in the coming months with plans to takeover specific planning efforts by July 1.

The city is accepting applications for a planning supervisor and is interviewing applicants to fill the department’s engagement coordinator position. Additionally, an administrative assistant and planners will be hired to work with developers and others wishing to build in Rochester.

The new department, which will take on some of the work currently handled by the Rochester-Olmsted Planning Department, is an effort to better coordinate planning efforts with work done by the city’s building safety and public works departments.

It’s a goal that was established by a 2011 task force seeking to improve the city’s development and permitting process.

Jerry Williams, who headed that task force, has said he’s excited to see what unfolds with Steinhauser on board. He said he feels she brings the right background and vision to the job.

City Administrator Steve Rymer agrees. “Her leadership will be key in shaping the new department and helping advance priorities vital to the long-term sustainability of the Rochester community,” he said.

With a background rooted in city and neighborhood development, the former city manager of Frankfort, Ky., calls her new job an ideal move.

A Dubuque, Iowa, native who worked for the city for more that two decades, Steinhauser said she was ready to return to the Midwest.

“The pace and culture matches my own,” she said.

In addition, early online research about Rochester’s efforts reveals a citywide mission that she said matches her interests.

“What struck me was how ready and willing people are to affect some kind of change,” she said. “They know this community is going to grow, and they know they can either help inform that growth and how it happens to the benefit of all citizens or they can just let it happen, and when you just let stuff happen usually you don’t get the best.”

She said a recent history of engagement by diverse groups in the city shows opportunity for long-term collaborative efforts to guide growth.

While she has set goals of having a department staffed by July 1 and being on the road to the best-in-nation status, she said she’s still open to suggestions on the best route.

“I’m not predisposed to any particular solution at this point, because I’m still in the learning phase,” she said.

As part of the learning phase, she’s studying the city’s various planning documents, from the newly adopted comprehensive plan and Destination Medical Center conceptual plans to individual neighborhood documents.

She said the plans tell a story of the community, but how that story unfolds will be seen in future efforts.

“It’s important that we be innovative and that we be responsive,” she said. “Planning is both a privilege and a responsibility, so really great community design can lead a community, transform a community.”

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