|THE KEENE STATE COLLEGE MAGAZINE FOR ALUMNI AND FRIENDS||VOLUME XIX NUMBER 2 Winter 2004|
All the Planning in the World...
Carol Ogilvie '77 never expected to have such an impact on others' lives – whether teaching refugees in Germany or guiding a town in New Hampshire toward a balance between environment and economy.
"Town planning is all about people – making their lives better, not ruining their lives," says Ogilvie, director of the Community Development Office for the Town of Peterborough.
For nearly 20 years, Ogilvie has helped shape towns and communities. According to Ogilvie, town planning, which she describes as her "passion," means balancing environmental concerns with human interests.
"People can't live and not have some impact on the land," she says. "We have to minimize the impact and yet create opportunities for people to live and work."
Many of the issues she deals with, such as ordinances, zoning, and master planning, may seem technical and impersonal in nature, but in reality they are ways for towns to create that balance.
In town planning, Ogilvie says, there is a relationship between the financial health of a community and the environment.
"People need a certain level of existence before they will pay attention to other issues," she says.
Town planning was not always on Ogilvie's radar. She attended Keene State as a non-traditional student – after high school, she had worked for several years before applying to college in 1972 – starting as a psychology major but switching to sociology. She credits her professors, including Martin Brown, associate professor of psychology, for motivating her toward a career. It was during an internship at Kent State University in Ohio, while completing her master's degree in urban planning, that Ogilvie discovered town planning. She worked in the City of Kent planning department and enjoyed the experience.
Her first job was with Windham Regional Planning Commission in Brattleboro. After less than a year, she moved to New Zealand, where she developed recreation plans for the Canterbury United Council.
Ogilvie then spent several years in West Germany, where she was one of the few women in Bavaria ever to manage a refugee home. Shortly after arriving in the country, Ogilvie began taking German lessons in a class that comprised mainly refugees seeking asylum.
A mix-up over doing homework together ended up with Ogilvie teaching German to the refugees. "I arrived at their house to find the hallway full of people waiting for the teacher. I said there had been a misunderstanding, but they insisted, so I found a room and started teaching." What began as a two-days-a-week pastime became a nearly full-time, four-year voluntary role.
In 1987, Ogilvie was the recipient of an award presented by West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl in recognition of her "practicing humanity" as a volunteer teacher.
Later that year, Ogilvie returned to Keene, where she jumped back into town planning, this time at the Southwest Region Planning Commission. There she was responsible for providing technical assistance to 36 planning boards in Cheshire, Hillsborough, and Sullivan counties. The work was a "trial by fire," she said. "One of the most important things I learned was when not to respond to a comment made in a public hearing. It's best just to say, 'Thank you, next question.'" However, 14 years of commission work also confirmed to Ogilvie that "planning is about people, making their lives better."
In late 2002, Ogilvie decided to focus on one town, and took up the position in Peterborough. Among her accomplishments in her first year was leading the town through its master planning process, which included four public hearings.
"The meetings were very well attended, above the norm, which was wonderful," she said. While dealing with more opinions makes her job more difficult, Ogilvie welcomed the involvement. People in Peterborough realize, she explained, "that planning is one area where you can make a difference. You have the opportunity to participate and be listened to, and make a difference in your corner of the world."
Dave Orsman is the news coordinator in the College Relations Office.