When Amanda Arnold earned her bachelor’s degree in landscape architecture in 1990, she thought she’d work in the private sector with a planning firm.
Eight years later, she earned her graduate degree, then spent more than two decades working for various governments, including almost eight as the administrator and planner for the Town of Verona.
Next month, she’ll start the job her college self dreamed of having.
“It’s really hard – everybody here is so darn nice,” she said. “I’m excited for myself, but sad and guilty about the work that I’m leaving behind.”
Arnold won’t be going far in her new role, as a senior land use planner for JSD Professional Services, a civil engineering, land use and planning company with an office on Horizon Drive among its seven locations. She said she’ll be helping develop projects and guide them through the process of receiving municipal approval.
Plan Commission chair Doug Maxwell said Arnold’s presence has cultivated a period of significant growth for the town because of her work on both the 2016 boundary agreement with the City of Verona and the 2018 comprehensive plan rewrite.
That growth is only one challenge the town faces, Arnold said, as it experiences regional pressures as neighboring municipalities close in and costs for services increase.
“It has certainly not been a sleepy little town to work in,” she said.
When Arnold took the administrator job in May 2012, the town was recovering from some bitter divisions with the City of Verona after a referendum to merge two entities failed to gain town resident approval in 2008. It expanded the role of its administrator, held for many years by Rose Johnson before her retirement, to include planning duties.
Planning was Arnold’s specialty, having spent six years as a principal planner for the City of Minneapolis.
When her husband, Mike, was hired as the associate director and content director of Wisconsin Public Radio, they moved to Madison and she stepped out of her comfort zone, taking on oversight of all the town’s operations.
Arnold said in addition to learning how to budget, she’s had the opportunity to develop close relationships with the Town Board, as they do the managing work together.
Those relationships expanded when Arnold had the town create additional committees so the Town Board didn’t need to grapple with the details of proposals on its own and more residents could be involved.
The committees fostered a greater sense of community within the town, Arnold added.
“It’s been fun to see people come out of the woodwork and see the backgrounds that they have,” she said.
Town Chair Mark Geller, who joined the Town Board the month before Arnold started, said the boundary agreement was one of her most significant accomplishments. It identified areas where the town could develop without creating friction in growth with the town’s neighboring cities of Verona, Fitchburg and Madison, something that was needed because growth had slowed nearly to a halt without it, Geller said.
“She’s been exactly what the Town needed at the time,” he said. “Amanda has just been great for that … she took a lot of that expertise with growth and brought it to us.”
Maxwell said he was disappointed when he heard that Arnold was leaving. When he joined the Plan Commission four-and-a-half-years ago, he had no experience with land planning, he said, and she became Maxwell’s mentor.
Because of Arnold’s work, the town has been able to add four condominium projects and two subdivisions since then, he said.
“She was a wonderful person to work with,” he said. “Because of all (the development) happening, I interacted with her four out of every five days of the week.”
Geller said it’s tough to see Arnold go.
“That’s part of hiring somebody really good is that they get taken,” he said. “I couldn’t be happier for her.”