Jackie Coombs-Hollis, MPA
Planning Administrator and Municipal Housing Liaison, Township of Livingston
Public Relations & Newsletter Committee Chair, NJAPZA


What do you love most about your current occupation?

In my role as the Planning Administrator and Municipal Housing Liaison, I like the diversity that these functions offer me.  I like having a voice.  I love working with people and each day offers me the opportunity to “problem solve”.  I like the planning, the communication with residents, developers, and my team; the creative aspects.  I like that I have absolute autonomy over my responsibilities which allows me to be innovative.  I select the time, tasks, and strategies that we use to meet the established goals in the department.


However, I also like the cyclical nature of the job.  Working with numerous different types of people has allowed me to develop my ability to communicate clearly in-person and writing.  I like the coordination and the collaborative environment with other departments, and the idea that I am making a difference in this part of the State.


Lastly, after having a decade long career in finance in NYC, I now enjoy the work-life balance that local government affords me. I love that my job enables me to love and enjoy my other passions in life.


How long have you been a member of the NJAPZA?

Member since July 2014


Why did you join the NJAPZA?

I joined the organization for professional networking opportunities. At the time that I joined, I was also looking for a resource that would allow me to exchange information and participate in various educational opportunities.


What is a typical work day like for you?

There is no typical day. Every day is different.  It is always changing and I get to have a front row seat watching the process of a simple idea grow into development.  The variability of my job is what gets me up in the morning.  My staff and I provide professional service to members of the public and I am able to contribute my experience and skills daily.  Each project or development presents unique challenges.  Generally my day involves the review and approval of plans for development for compliance with all applicable codes and ordinances, and LOTS of impromptu meetings.  Mondays are generally the busiest preparing for the public meeting(s) that week.  The diversity of the work that I do ensures that no day is like any other, and I am always focused on bettering the community, which makes you feel good when the day is done!  I work hard to maintain a level of trust, which keeps me engaged and excited – all at once!


What’s something about you (a fun fact) that not many people know?

Guilty pleasure: Watching YouTube videos. (I know, don’t judge me)


What do you enjoy most about the NJAPZA?

The NJAPZA can help anyone in the office of planning and zoning.  The experts that are retained for educational sessions come from a variety of backgrounds but have one thing in common: they are authorities in the field with years of experience.


Who inspires you?

My inspiration comes from my parents who migrated to the United States more than 60 years ago.  They overcame the hardships and obstacles of moving their family for a better life than the one they lived.  They worked hard and stayed focused and taught me life lessons which I am now able to pass on to my children.


When you have 30 minutes of free-time, how do you pass the time?

It depends on the weather and my mood. During the work day I use down time to return calls and check emails (both for work and personal) J  I have random conversations with my staff and colleagues.  I am also an avid Scrabble player, so I play “Words with Friends” on my phone.


What’s the best advice you would give someone in your line of work?

“Patience is a virtue” is not just a cliché statement but one that you will need to live by. Whether you are new to planning and zoning, or a seasoned professional, or somewhere in between, you need patience to manage unexpected and tough situations.  When you find yourself beginning to feel short fused and impatient when dealing with certain work situations, use it as an opportunity to develop patience.  Take a step back and admire the situation from the outside looking in. Although it’s not obvious, patience in the workplace is a great distinction between proficient and inefficient employees.  Be objective enough to step back and remove any personal opinions that might arise in the heat of a workplace conflict.  Take a look at the bigger picture and attempt to understand the root of the problem. Be strong enough to not crack under pressure and lose your cool, but be wise enough to hold yourself accountable for something that you may be at fault for.

We naturally get impatient with people who don’t listen, don’t take direction well, and constantly make excuses.   It’s frustrating for anybody to have to listen to the same song and dance over and over again when there are more important objectives to be completed.  Before you are ready to throw in the towel and have had it up to your head with aggravation, remind yourself of the end goal and seek out guidance from someone you trust.  This trusted resource could help find a valuable solution and provide you with a much-needed change in perspective. It will ease your nerves and decrease stress.