Joshua Shaklee grew up in Douglas County. Now, he’ll play a pivotal role in planning for its future.
As the new head of the Douglas County Planning Department, Shaklee will oversee a staff of about 20, including planners, health inspectors and the county forester. Shaklee replaced longtime planning director Keith Cubic in November.
Shaklee is a 1994 graduate of Roseburg High School who earned a bachelor’s degree in landscape architecture from the University of Oregon and worked as a landscape designer for about five years, but found it was tough to get work in his field outside urban areas. He and his wife wanted to get back to rural Oregon, and to Roseburg if possible, so he went back to school for a master’s degree in urban and regional planning at Portland State University.
His first job after receiving his master’s degree was as a community planner in Myrtle Point. After that, he took a job as a planner in Lincoln County. That job was open because Stuart Cowie left to work as senior planner for Douglas County. It was after Cowie took a job as the city of Roseburg’s community development director that a position finally opened for Shaklee in Roseburg in 2017.
Shaklee said he and his wife, Lisa Shaklee, who also grew up in Roseburg and graduated from RHS the same year he did, had long wanted to return to their hometown. Joshua Shaklee said he has a warm place in his heart for Douglas County, but in his teens he took it for granted.
“Once you have kids your perspective changes, and I wanted my kids to have a similar childhood, a similar experience growing up that I did,” he said. The Shaklees have three daughters, ages 2 through 8.
Shaklee said he believes the North Umpqua, where he swam, floated and camped in his youth, is the most beautiful place in the world.
As a kid, Shaklee lived on Main Street in Roseburg and had a paper route that included the Douglas County Courthouse building where he now works. He remembers a thriving downtown that was the heart of the city and also remembers how downtown declined when the larger stores moved out. Today, he said, Roseburg seems to have a lot more going for it.
“I’ve been really encouraged seeing the businesses that have come in and how much life is going on downtown. That’s really cool to see. I meet people daily who are working hard to make it a better place, and I just love being a part of that,” he said.
Shaklee stepped into the role of planning manager for Douglas County in June 2017. As Cubic entered his 47th year with the county with plans to retire, the two planned for an orderly transition with Shaklee working toward taking over as director.
Like other county departments, the planning department has felt the pressure of the county’s budget problems. Shaklee said it will be necessary to become more efficient, in part by making better use of technology. He said he wants to improve the planning department’s webpage to make it easier for county residents to access the planning information they need.
Shaklee sees other challenges ahead, including updates of the county’s transportation system and wildfire protection plans. He’s working with a smaller and younger staff, since the department has seen five retirements in a little over a year and lost, collectively, about 171 years of institutional knowledge. Still, Shaklee is positive about the department’s future. He said the staff morale is good and he gets lots of support from the county commissioners and other department heads.
Following on the heels of Cubic’s departure, Shaklee said he has big shoes to fill. At 42, it’s unlikely he’ll fill the post as long as Cubic did, but he does hope for a long and successful career in Douglas County.
“I have no plans to go anywhere else. As long as they’ll have me, I’ll be here,” Shaklee said.