Abby Attoun


My day job is director of community development for the City of Middleton.

I’ve been with the city for 12 years and over that time the position has broadened and expanded.

A lot of my position revolves around economic development: I work with new and existing businesses to bring more jobs to the Middleton community.

I’m also involved in long-term planning, determining what we want the future of our city to be and incorporating public input into that process.

The expansion of public lands falls under my department as does work on public art and preservation. Last, I’m involved in workforce housing initiatives—efforts to establish more housing in the city to meet the needs across all income levels. If you work in the city full time, you should also be able to afford to live in Middleton. As many communities have found, it can be really challenging.

I have my bachelor’s and master’s degrees in urban and regional planning and my job gives me the chance to work on everything I love. It’s one of the great benefits of working for a small city—you get to do it all, which is really rare.

I love being plugged into a community and knowing everything that’s happening here. And I don’t just work here, I live here too.

One project I’m currently working on that’s been quite fun and exciting is a new public plaza that will be in downtown Middleton. It will include a bandshell, seating for events and interactive art. It’s a very unique space—check it out on our website. And we’re currently hosting a contest to name it. I made the deadline for submittals my birthday—it’s like a gift to me to get all those great ideas!

My most memorable caffeine was when I discovered the just how delicious Chemex coffee can be.

I came to coffee very late. I think that might be, in part, because I have two parents with an unhealthy addiction to coffee—my mom started drinking it when she was two years old and drinks more coffee than anybody I’ve ever seen!

About six years ago I decided I should get away from drinking soda—I realized it was unhealthy and needed a beverage other than water.

My husband loves coffee and every year he asks for a new coffee gadget. When he added the Chemex (for pour-over coffee) I thought “Oh no, another thing to take up space in our small kitchen!”

But then I tasted it and I absolutely loved it—it’s so good. Now it’s the only way we make coffee at our house.

My current caffeine of choice is a black coffee. I don’t add cream or sugar and I never have. I love Ruby Coffee Roasters and Rusty Dog.

My favorite place for caffeine is the Barriques on University. I can walk here from home or work and if I want to have a meeting outside City Hall, it’s often here. I also like the Hubbard Avenue Diner, which is right across from work. They have good coffee from Colectivo and I love the employees—I’ve gotten to know them very well!

The people I’d love to share a cup of caffeine with are Jane Jacobs and the trio of Tina Fey, Amy Poehler and Maya Rudolph.

Jane Jacobs was a journalist who acted more like a sociologist. She was active in the ‘60s and ‘70s in Greenwich Village and made a lot of important contributions in urban planning. She really observed how people interact; what works well in a city and what doesn’t work well

Her book “The Death and Life of Great American Cities is required reading for any urban planning student. And she’s the person who formulated the idea of “eyes on the street.” If you think about safety in a neighborhood, many people think strictly single family, large-lot neighborhoods are the safest place to raise a family.

But think of what happens: Everyone leaves during the day and there aren’t any eyes on the street. Jacobs advocated for mixed-use neighborhoods and development, where there’s activity all times of the day and evening. That concept really resonated with me.

Jacobs also went to battle with really powerful people in New York, like Robert Moses. He was a well-connected developer who was dictating what was happening with planning and advocated for super highways cutting through neighborhoods. For the most part these were really poor neighborhoods; the path of least resistance. Jacobs realized what that does to a neighborhood: That it bifurcates the neighborhood and destroys networks.

She wasn’t afraid to take on powerful people and she made critical contributions to urban planning.

My other coffee partners would be three in one: Tina, Amy and Maya. They are hilarious, powerful women. I’ve pretty much loved everything they’ve done, whether it was a movie, TV show or book.

I loved Tina’s book, Bossypants” and her observations about women, especially in the workplace. And Amy and “Parks and Rec.” I don’t experience the degrees of ridiculousness that she did, but there are similarities!

World problem that could be solved with the right amount of caffeine:  This isn’t exactly a problem, more like an illustration of the benefit of coffee. For me, I don’t have clarity in the morning unless I have my coffee and 10 minutes of peace. Plus, coffee helped me give up soda and be more healthy—and it’s a super food when you have it black. And from the perspective of the broader world, if coffee is grown sustainably and with fair trade practices, it can help provide a living in developing countr