Building Blocks for Being a General Services Planner

The new Sheriff’s Crime Lab, the Imperial Beach Library and the proposed library, park and sheriff’s station in Borrego Springs: what do they all have in common?

They are just a few of the many County construction projects underway or in development. A team of people makes these buildings become a reality, but one person directly manages the preparation of the County’s capital facilities program. Her name is Elyce Shorb, and she’s a Project Manager for General Services.

“Elyce is a definite star. She’s responsible for the management of the Capital Improvement Needs Assessment and the Major Maintenance Implementation Plan,” said General Services Project Management Chief Tom Fincher. “We also have a project manager and a recently hired facility analyst assisting in this monumental management effort.”

How important is this job? Well, the CINA is a list of all current and anticipated capital projects – buildings, essentially – over a five-year period. The current CINA list includes $1.1 billion in overall funding. The Major Maintenance Implementation Plan is basically the County’s fix-it list. The most recent MMIP involved more than $47 million.

“I never would have known that I’d end up with the County of San Diego,” said Shorb. “But I can see now that each step I took built the tool kit I needed to be in this position at this time.”

So how did she get here? She has a degree in city and regional planning from California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo. She got a job right out of college at Qualcomm and later worked for a local architectural firm.

But neither job fit what she had in mind. In 2008, she took a position as an Environmental Land Use Planner with what is now known as Planning & Development Services. She worked with the public on smaller scale projects as well as managed performance and process improvements. But once again, she got the itch to change.

She didn’t want to leave the County; she just wanted a new challenge. An opportunity arose at General Services. Shorb applied and won a project manager position in strategic planning. She’s been there about a year and a half.

“It was a great transition,” said Shorb. “It was a good fit for me personally.”

Shorb says she interacts with other County groups and their departments now. She loves watching County building projects grow and make an impact on the community.  

When it comes to major maintenance, she likes to take field trips to various facilities.

“It’s not just another cell on the worksheet. You can see their environment,” said Shorb. “It casts a different light on things.”

So what kinds of skills does a planner need? Shorb says planners should know: how to read plans and interpret the zoning ordinance, understand CEQA, the California Environmental Quality Act, and have an interest in design.  Be familiar with AutoCAD, Excel and Microsoft Office. Planners should have an eye for detail, be organized and flexible in dealing with changing priorities.   

Shorb gets plenty of extra practice at home with the last two. She has 6-year-old twin daughters in kindergarten!

But back to work. Shorb says the County’s emphasis on the environment dovetails with her own passion for it. She appreciates the County’s ongoing goal to meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design or LEED standards of excellence. She says the County has the leading edge over other counties.

“It’s the same path I would choose,” said Shorb. “I take pride in my work and pride in what the County is doing.”