This blog post originally appeared on John Reinhardt's LinkedIn account.
The American Planning Association has always been an important part of my professional life.
I started with the organization as a program associate right out of planning school — and as a recent graduate, I was immediately sold on what APA provides: education, thought leadership, and networking. It felt like an extension of graduate school, providing the opportunity to explore ideas and interact with professionals from across the country and even around the world.
Planning for, and attending, the National Planning Conference was always the highlight of the year during my three years at APA.
John Reinhardt, third from left, enjoying time with colleagues at the 2018 National Planning Conference in New Orleans. Photo by Jason Beske.
So when I received a call in May 2016 to serve on a new committee charged with planning the National Planning Conferences, I jumped at the chance. Three years later, I’m proud of the improvements we’ve implemented in collaboration with my committee colleagues, member volunteers, and the dedicated staff at APA.
From the beginning, our committee was focused on increasing member engagement as part of the conference experience.
During my first year, we implemented a peer review process to promote the highest-quality sessions. We developed a structure to involve member-experts as session reviewers and volunteer “Track Chairs” to curate a track of sessions. Although it was a big change, it has yielded positive feedback from both attendees and those who submit sessions.
Participating in conference-building at NPC18. Photo by John Reinhardt.
The following year, we turned our efforts incorporating more focus on planning for equity, responding to member feedback. We developed a new track, “Planning for Inclusiveness and Social Justice,” for the 2018 conference in New Orleans and worked with the APA Diversity Committee to ensure that the first Plan4Equity Forum had space and support during the upcoming 2019 conference in San Francisco.
Moving forward, we are exploring ways to leave a lasting impact at each conference — whether it be through local themes, sub-plenaries, or a conference declaration. As I transition from committee service, I look forward to seeing what Bruce Stiftel and Shannen Jaxx do to strengthen the conference’s educational program and increase the event’s impact.
It’s been nearly a decade since I left the job at APA, and the National Planning Conference continues to be a highlight of my professional calendar. I continue to attend, and I leave with so many insights, ideas, and strengthened relationships that my professional “gas tank” is full until the next time.
It’s been an honor and a pleasure to leave my mark on the event and I thank everyone at APA for leaving a positive and lasting professional mark on me.
Top image: The San Francisco coloring wall was a magnet for attendees at the 2018 National Planning Conference. APA photo by Riverside Photography.
About the Author
John Reinhardt, AICP
John Reinhardt is a transportation consultant, project manager, and communicator at Sam Schwartz.