Lee Khan

Pinstripe | Personal

I am 58 years old; I ride a motorcycle, climb mountains, quilt, build stone walls, and catch speeding bullets in my teeth. Okay, so I don’t catch speeding bullets in my teeth, but I did wear braces when I was little. In preparing this shall we say, nontraditional bio, I am looking back at my professional career and it looks a bit like a quilt. To be specific, it looks like a scrap quilt, for the quilting aficionados out there.

Today I am the cofounder of PermittingPartners, with my long-time friend, Lindsey Johnson. Leading up to the creation of PermittingPartners, I have worked for a decade on industrial, energy [both transmission and generation], mining and rail permitting projects.

Primary in my permitting work is the desire to think beyond the fence about our neighbors. Let’s face it – everything is in somebody’s backyard. I hate the term NIMBY. It is arrogant and unyielding. In all of the communities in which I have worked, I have never found the neighbors to be either. And I have worked with some developers who turned a deaf ear on neighbors when asked to change their operating procedure, while others are happy to listen. For most developers, permitting is a legal process, not a people process. Yet the people can drag it down or out quicker than you can say, “Cape Wind.” In most successful developments someone is in the middle working to get to “yes,” and in some cases for me it has been flat out “no.”

As a volunteer, I am a founder and current chairman of two not-for-profit corporations: Dimensions of Marble and the Vermont Rail Action Network. Historically I have been a lobbyist for health care and rail corporations, worked with prodemocracy folks in the former Soviet Union, Kazakhstan, South Africa and Grenada, and I founded a division of the Republican National Committee in the 80’s called Working Partners. Are we beginning to see a trend here? From my work in politics to my work today in permitting, I have always been in the middle working on an idea or a campaign or a development, trying to get to “yes.” You know, like putting together the odd bits that make a quilt or a stone wall. I have an awesome daughter, a college degree, an old dog named Jazz and I live in Randolph Center, Vermont.