A warm welcome was given at Thursday’s Sun Valley City Council meeting to the city’s new assistant city planner, Maya Lewis, who was hired last month. At age 21, she’s the youngest city staff member in history.

“I would like to introduce the city’s newest employee,” Mayor Peter Hendricks said. “Maya will be able to handle us with ease.”

Since graduating from Western Washington University in June, Lewis has been on the go. After she moved to Stateline, Nev., to take an internship with the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency this past summer, the Sumner, Wash., native said she found herself drawn to Sun Valley.

“I’m very excited to do some long-range planning here and get involved with the community,” Lewis said in an interview. “Right now, the design-review reports I’ve been doing for new development have been pretty interesting to me, because I have followed the work of several of the architects that are being contracted for these homes. I also love sustainable design, and almost got my minor in it, actually.”

Lewis is an American Institute of Certified Planners candidate, and she hopes to become certified soon.

“Through an accredited program at Western [Washington University], I got on a fast track for city government work and became an AICP candidate,” she said. “Normally, you’d have to wait two years after starting a job to take the test, but you can take it right away if you did the program—so I hope to do that soon.”

Lewis also took a fast track to college via the Running Start program, a dual-credit enrollment option that allows upperclassmen to attend college courses. After graduating from high school with her Associate of Arts degree, she went on to Western Washington University in Bellingham, where she became vice president of the planning club on campus and received her bachelor’s degree in urban planning with a minor in environmental policy.

Though Lewis was initially keen on completing an environmental studies degree, two introductory city-planning classes—and a growing interest in architecture—changed her mind. Doing architectural mockups in Sketchup, a 3-D modeling computer program, only sealed the deal.

“I realized [planning] was a good choice for me, since environmental studies tends to be a super broad degree and urban planning had more of a direct career path,” she said. “I wanted to have a higher level of community impact. And after I learned how to use Sketchup, I was like, ‘Wow, I could continue doing this with sustainable design.’”

In the months ahead, Lewis said she’d like to collaborate with planners across the Wood River Valley on a regular basis and, as the new representative for Sun Valley at the Central Idaho Dark Sky Reserve, help the city decrease its light emissions.

“One goal I have is to amend the current dark-skies ordinance for Sun Valley so we can reach official designation as a Dark Sky Community,” she said. “It’s awesome that we even have an ordinance, but we want to meet the criteria set by the International Dark Sky Association.”

Email the writer: ejones@mtexpress.com

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