Cara Bertron: Historic Preservation Officer
What I do:
As the Deputy Historic Preservation Officer for the City of Austin, I review changes to historic buildings, help neighborhoods that want to become historic districts, and staff our preservation commission. I also lead public engagement and community partnerships, which offer ongoing opportunities to find common ground and navigate working partnerships.
Why I do it:
Austin is growing rapidly and facing pressing questions around equity, affordability, and sustainability. I believe that historic buildings, community heritage, and development can and should coexist in a strong city - that they can all help meet broader goals - and it's exciting to be in a position now to help figure that out.
How I got here:
I wandered my way into historic preservation through a series of related jobs: archival research for the Stanford Planning Office, an internship with the City of Berkeley's preservation commission, and historic surveys and preservation planning in San Francisco. I went to graduate school to explore how historic preservation can benefit communities, especially historically underrepresented communities, and got to dig into a lot of community development classes there. After getting my master's, I worked for a national preservation economics consulting firm, did neighborhood-level planning and engagement for a community development organization in Seattle's Chinatown International District, and co-founded a national network around historic preservation in older industrial cities. Now I'm back home in Austin, trying to steward change and preserve community heritage in a thoughtful and strategic way. I've also worked for a couple of restaurants in Edinburgh, Scotland, and a collective bakery! So am on call for birthday and wedding cakes after working hours.
What my background in Urban Studies has done for me:
Urban Studies provided a broad base of understanding the complexity of city function and change. Over the last almost 15 years, that foundation has helped me to skate between municipal work, advocacy, quantitative analysis and mapping, collaborative policy creation, and community development at the neighborhood, citywide, and regional levels.