Tracy Swagler Strunk: Woman with a Plan

tracyTracy Swagler Strunk is a city planner. You might say her job is to look forward, and to make decisions today that will help thousands of people in the future. Her official job title is Deputy Director, Tysons Coordinator for the Office of Community Revitalization, and she’ll tell you more about that below. I’ve known Tracy and other members of her super-smart family for years and have always been impressed not only by how smart she is, but also how creative she is… and how much fun! I’m thrilled that she agreed to be interviewed here today. Thanks Tracy!

I’ve seen your brain power in action in a lot of different ways over the years. What’s your favorite way to flaunt it? I have to admit I really enjoy playing with vocabulary.  I read (a lot) when I was a kid, still do, actually, and our family played word games at the dinner table every night.  It’s not that I like to use big “fancy” words or words people don’t know, but I really enjoy finding exactly the right word to convey exactly what I want to say!  Communication is so important,

I know exactly how you feel! (Sounds like you’d make a great writer.) Can you tell us how brain power an asset to your career? Well, I’m a planner and my job is development review for Fairfax County, in Northern Virginia, right outside Washington, DC.  At the moment, I’m working on a series of big cases involving the redevelopment of Tysons Corner.  The short story is that Tysons is a place with a lot of high-end office parks and shopping malls but very little residential.  It developed based on the car, so there’s not a lot of easy walking, and you almost have to get in your car to go to lunch, even if it’s right across the street.  Now the Metro line is being extended through Tysons, so the County has plans to redevelop the whole area based on a new paradigm, one that’s more like a traditional downtown where there’s a mix of uses close together, you can walk easily, and there’s lots to see and do as you walk around.  The idea is to get more people on transit, foot and bike, and to create a fun, exiting place to live, work and play.

The reason that brain power is so important is that there are a lot of moving parts that we have to keep in mind while we’re reviewing these cases!  As you can imagine, any change you make on these developments has a ripple effect, so if you want to move a building back on one side so there’s room for a nice street café, you might end up impacting the proposed park on the other side of the building.  Plus we’re working on a lot of different cases at one time, so you have to think not just about what you’re doing on one case, but how that might affect the other cases, too.

It’s always hard to make people happy with change, especially when you’re dealing with a lot of people. Your job sounds very challenging! As far as nerds go though, I’ve always considered you to be pretty cool. So what’s cool about being nerdy? I think the coolest thing is being able to be yourself.  To me, if you accept a label (any label) it means that you think enough of yourself not to care if you do things a little differently than everyone else.  Plus “nerdy” implies “smart,” and there is NEVER anything bad about being smart!!

What’s something you like to do that might be considered a tad bit nerdy, but is actually really fun? Or do you have a favorite hobby? Okay this really answers both questions… I knit!  I’ve always done a lot of crafty things (sewing, cross-stitch, scrap-booking, card making) a few years ago I started knitting and I’ve really gotten into it.  I think the thing that I like best is that it almost seems like magic – you start with a piece of string and you can turn it into something that you can wear!  I usually have 4 or 5 projects at different stages on my needles, and I almost always have at least one (or more) projects in my purse.  I knit while I’m waiting for appointments, I knit while I’m in meetings (some of them), I knit while I’m riding the metro, I knit while I’m watching tv… and I love to knit while I’m on vacation, hanging out on the porch in the mountains or in a hammock sitting by the beach!  I love that knitting can be something that is infuriatingly complex and difficult or something that is completely peaceful and relaxing.

I have never had the patience to knit, yet some of my favorite nerdy people tell me how relaxing it is. Now kayaking, like you’re doing below, that’s relaxing to me! Thanks so much for joining us Tracy! 

Tracy has an account on Ravelry.  To see some of her knitted creations, and to see how she made them, click on these links:

tracy kayakBunny Nuggets:

Charlie’s First Socks:

Sister-in-law Scarf:

Christmas Scarf for Mom: