For APA Board Director, Region 2

Benjamin Hitchings, FAICP

Benjamin Hitchings, FAICP

Professional Experience

  • Planning Director, Town of Chapel Hill, North Carolina (2016-present)
  • Planning Director, Town of Morrisville, North Carolina (2005-2016)
  • Land Use Program Manager, Principal Planner, Senior Planner, Triangle J Council of Governments, North Carolina (1997-2005)

APA Experience

  • Chair, APA Chapter Presidents Council (2018-2019), Vice Chair (2016-2017)
  • Director, APA Board of Directors (2018-2019)
  • Member, APA Development Plan and Budget Committee, APA CEO Search Committee (2018-2019), APA Governance Committee (2016-2017)
  • Co-Chair, APA Student and New Member Task Force (2015-2017)
  • President, APA North Carolina (2012-2014); President Elect (2011-2012); Past President (2014-2015)
  • Member, APA Legislative & Policy Committee (2007-2011)
  • Legislative Chair, APA North Carolina (1999-2007)

Awards

  • Fellow, American Institute of Certified Planners (2018)
  • Philip Green Award for Outstanding Chapter Service, APA North Carolina (2016)
  • Chapter Presidents Leadership Award, APA Chapter Presidents Council (2015)
  • Karen B. Smith Award for Overall Chapter Achievement, APA Chapter Presidents Council (2013)

Education

  • Master of City & Regional Planning, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (1997)
  • Bachelor of Arts, Amherst College (1990)

Position Statement

In recent years, our national organization has improved operations and expanded member services, implementing a new online engagement system (APA Engage), launching a new Learning Management System (APA Learn), and moving to a more strategic system of Knowledge-Based Governance for its Board and Commission. Now we must continue this upward trajectory to better support our members and magnify the impact of our profession.

If elected as your Region II Director, I will focus on three opportunities to do this by:

  1. Building our organizational capacity to expand member services. We need to help chapters and divisions expand their paid administrative support to deliver more services to members, and diversify APA revenues to make the organization more affordable to join.
  2. Finding new ways to engage our members. We need to implement APA's new Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion policies and find creative ways to engage students and new members to expand our volunteer capacity, diversify our membership, and help more planners benefit from our organizational resources.
  3. Advocating for strong planning policy. We must raise our organizational profile and find new strategies to advocate for effective planning at the federal and state level.

Through my work at the chapter and national level, I have made lasting contributions to our organization.

  • As Co-Chair of the APA Student and New Member Task Force, I led development of a more affordable and inclusive Student and New Member Program to attract and retain more new members and build our organizational diversity.
  • As APA North Carolina Chapter President, I launched two major initiatives — Great Places in North Carolina, and Planning for Prosperity — to build public support for planning and highlight its economic value.
  • As a member of APA's Legislative & Policy Committee, I led the drafting of the 2011 APA Legislative Advocacy Report and developed new resources for chapters.
  • As Legislative Chair for APA North Carolina, I built legislative coalitions and led the Chapter's successful 2005 effort to pass planning statute reform.
  • Most recently, as Chair and Vice Chair of the APA Chapter Presidents Council, I have helped chapters build their organizational capacity and effectiveness.

In my day job, I manage a department of 14 people as Planning Director for the Town of Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

My diversity of experiences at the chapter and national level has given me a strong understanding of our organization, how it functions, and what it needs.

The world needs our profession more than ever. If elected, I will be a thoughtful and passionate voice to help APA support you in your work, advance your career, and maximize the impact of our profession.

Candidate Questionnaire

What do you believe is the most important member service APA provides? Why? How would you propose strengthening this and other member services?

APA offers a variety of valuable member services, including continuing education, credentialing, networking, sharing best practices, and celebrating great places. But perhaps the most important service it provides is helping members find a job, and helping employers find qualified talent. Our profession can maximize its impact by maximizing the effectiveness of the organizations in which our members serve, and this happens when the right people are in the right positions.

In recent years, APA has continued to improve its website and its career development offerings at the National Planning Conference. One potential new service to consider would be customized consultation, both for job seekers and for employers to help them think through different options during times of transition.

For all member services provided by APA, I will be an advocate for customer feedback, continuous improvement, and making APA's services financially accessible.

How could APA improve and strengthen the relationship among APA and its components (AICP, Chapters, Divisions, SRC)?

The relationship between APA and its components has grown stronger in recent years, and with greater organizational collaboration has come more opportunities to advance meaningful projects. Our ability to do this, however, is limited by the resource capacity of Chapters, Divisions and Student Representatives Council to take on new work.

As a result, a key way that APA can strengthen its internal relationships is to help its components develop new capacity to support collaborative efforts. A recent survey by the Chapter Presidents Council found that one third of chapters don't have any paid staff. The Divisions and the Student Representatives Council could also benefit from more support. If elected, I will be an advocate for developing sustainable funding models to help APA components grow their paid staff support in order to provide more member services and greater collaboration on joint organizational initiatives.

Now that the Planning for Equity Policy Guide has been adopted, how should APA use this guide to shape itself organizationally?

With the adoption of APA's Diversity Policy in 2018 and our Planning for Equity Policy Guide in 2019, APA has taken important steps forward in promoting Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion(DEI) in the profession. Now we need to systematically implement these policies within APA, and build the commitment of our members to do the same in their organizations and their professional practice. In so doing, we can help inspire and support a new generation of planners to advance the cause of justice in their work.

To do this, we need to conduct a DEI assessment for APA and draft an organizational DEI plan to systematically pursue equity in all APA policies and practices. New resources such as Planning for Diverse Communities (PAS Report #593) and More and Better: Increasing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Planning (PAS Memo, May/June 2019) provide helpful guidance for members in their work. Providing a sample DEI assessment template and sample organizational DEI plan would be helpful as well. Above all, we need to make sure this effort remains an enduring organizational commitment. If elected, I will be a strong advocate for this work.

What is the biggest challenge facing the planning profession, and how should APA address it?

In addition to advancing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, the biggest challenge facing the planning profession is expanding our impact to better address the local, national, and global challenges that we face. The world needs our profession more than ever, and we need to find new ways to magnify our efforts. This means building the profile of planning, expanding public support for our work, drawing more people to the profession, and helping our members be all that they can be in their careers. If elected, I will be a thoughtful and passionate voice for helping APA elevate the profession, support planners in their work, and maximize the impact of our profession.