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With a new, private office and new role within county government, Jessica Clemenhagen said she’s enjoyed her first month as the new Custer County Planning and Zoning administrator. A former Sheriff’s Office dispatcher, Clemenhagen has quickly adapted to her new position.

With the Custer County Planning and Zoning department recently losing both its commission chairman and administrator, two people have joined the ranks of leadership in the office.

“It’s been fun, trying to get it all figured out,” Administrator Jessica Clemenhagen, a former Sheriff’s Office dispatcher and the replacement for Christi Foster, said.

Clemenhagen began her new role Nov. 30 after 10 years as a dispatcher. While she misses the family she made working with emergency services and the important job, Clemenhagen said she needed a change. Helping people through accidents, 911 calls and other dramatic incidents takes a toll, she said, and the long shifts didn’t help.

“You’re talking with people going through the worst experiences in their lives,” Clemenhagen said. “It can be a lot.”

Clemenhagen noticed she was taking the stress home, which is why she wanted a more family friendly profession. When she saw an opening for the administrator position advertised in the Messenger, Clemenhagen felt confident her experience as a dispatcher would lend itself well to the job.

Working in a more relaxed setting, Clemenhagen said her new job has shifted her perspective about county government. She has a new appreciation for the administrative side of things, which in turn has given her a different relationship with the public.

Now, when Clemenhagen talks to county residents, it’s usually to let someone know what they can build on their property, what they can’t, or if they can split it. As someone who likes people and wants them to stay informed, Clemenhagen said her interactions with the community are much more enjoyable now. Even if someone gets upset when they find out they can’t do what they want with their property, Clemenhagen said it doesn’t compare with the stresses of her former job.

Corrine Jones is the new board chairman, replacing James Mullin who retired from the board. She’s been on the planning commission since 2018.

Thankful that Clemenhagen is doing well at her job, Jones said it has been helpful in her new role. Jones said she’s still getting used to the new position. Whereas before she could vote on issues, which is an ability she misses, Jones said she now advises and informs planning and zoning commissioners during their meetings.

“Planning and zoning has a real purpose,” Jones said. “You want your county to grow, but in a good and mannerly way.”