For APA President-Elect
George Homewood, FAICP CFM
I am seeking the position of APA President-Elect. I believe I can best serve my profession and APA by being a passionate advocate for both the big picture and for those transformative policies our organization and the planning profession need to become recognized as the premier voice for creating and sustaining inclusive and equitable communities in our nation and around the world.
I have been a professional planner for 35 years; more than half of that time as a Planning Director. My experience includes rural, suburban and urban communities and in each community for which I worked, I led at least one significant and transformative plan, policy or ordinance, some of which are still being used today. I have developed a well-earned reputation for thinking the big thoughts, maintaining a future focus, and not being tied to the status quo.
I bring that same energy and enthusiasm to everything I do, whether for my employers, APA, community volunteerism and my family. I fully intend to bring this passion to the APA President-Elect position.
I am a product of Richmond (VA) Public Schools during the era of cross-city busing. I attended the College of William & Mary, majoring in economics and government, Christopher Newport University, majoring in planning and public management and I started the MPA program at George Washington University, but stopped short of completion when our family started growing and both money and time became tight.
I began my career as Assistant Planner in James City County, VA, also serving as the site plan reviewer. In York County, VA, I focused on transportation planning and was promoted to Chief Planner (equivalent of Planning Director) and built a team to develop a comprehensive plan, subdivision and zoning ordinances. Both counties were struggling to manage the pressures of growth while trying to maintain some degree of rural character. Following a four-year detour working for a US Army contractor, I returned to local government as the Planning Director and later Community Development Director in New Kent County, a rural county struggling with rapid growth. I led the development of a comprehensive plan, subdivision and zoning ordinances and oversaw the approval of a major planned development used to leverage a significant investment in utilities, including the first gray-water recycling program authorized in Virginia. I am currently the Planning Director in Norfolk, VA, with a major focus on resilience resulting in several award-winning plans and ordinances.
I am currently serving in my second year as the Chair of APA'S Legislative & Policy Committee (after 8 years as a member) shepherding a record 3 Policy Guides at the 2019 NPC, including the new Policy Guide on Equity which I believe will become one of APA's most transformational efforts. I served 2 terms as the Virginia Chapter President chairing the Chapter Presidents Council Leadership Committee and leading a complete rethinking and recrafting of the Chapter Performance Standards to ensure that all APA members receive certain key benefits from their chapters for the dues that they pay. I was the Chapter VP-Legislation for 2 terms during which time the Virginia Chapter developed a much more proactive and effective legislative program that continues to today.
Community Volunteer Experience
To help make great communities, planners need to be involved in their communities. I certainly have. I remain involved in Scouting, officiate competitive swimming & diving and have received numerous awards and recognitions from these and other community activities.
I have a passion for process improvement and future focus and will bring this passion to both APA and our chosen profession. I have the experience, willingness and drive to lead APA to new heights with your help.
What do you believe is the most important member service APA provides? Why? How would you propose strengthening this and other member services?
It is the full range of member services offered by APA that creates value added for the membership. Planning is a "big tent" profession so different services have greater value to some than to others but the whole very much is greater than the sum of the parts. The new Knowledge Base platform provides opportunities for interactive research in addition to the more traditional topical searching while the Research Centers are contributing to our understanding of topics that matter in many communities — hazard mitigation, heathy communities, climate change and nature-based solutions. For others, the annual National Planning Conference and Chapter Conferences are most valuable because of the availability of networking, idea sharing, continuing education credits, fellowship and fun. Mentoring and career development, including the AICP credential, are crucial to planning being viewed as a true profession in the milieu of place-based professions. The leadership development options created through the Chapter and Division governance structures are invaluable for some of our members as the lessons learned allow folks to grow professionally but also as contributing members of their communities in support of their and their families' activities. My list could not be complete without mentioning APA's policy and advocacy programs and the service these programs deliver for the members and the profession.
I provide this long list to make the point that we need to focus on strengthening and expanding all of APA's programs and member services because in planning, one size does not fit all. We also need to find ways of delivering these services ever more efficiently and effectively, harnessing technology and exploiting opportunities as they arise. Finally, we have to be ever more creative in expanding non-dues revenue to support the work of APA.
How could APA improve and strengthen the relationship among APA and its components (AICP, Chapters, Divisions, SRC)?
"One APA" has to become more than a clever slogan wrapped around a logo. The new governance structure that places the Chapter Presidents Council Chair, Divisions Council Chair and Student Representatives Council Chair on the APA Board together with the AICP President as full voting members is a good start. It is incumbent upon the component leaders to find ways to surface ideas and concerns from among their members to the APA Board and it is equally incumbent upon the APA Board to listen to and carefully consider these ideas and concerns. I will ensure that every appointed committee and task force will have AICP, CPC, DC and SRC representation so that there is an opportunity to share and communicate at that level. Additionally, I will suggest that a member of the APA Board other than the component leader attend meetings and retreats of the components to listen and help keep lines of communication open and productive.
The APA Foundation FutureShape initiative provides a concrete example of how all of APA, as well as our partners in allied professions, can work collaboratively for the benefit of the profession to create a research agenda to help drive the conversation about planning in the second quarter of the 21st century. The "Big Changes" we face as a profession — climate, technology, mobility, economy — provide organizing issues around which cooperative action is obvious.
Now that the Planning for Equity Policy Guide has been adopted, how should APA use this guide to shape itself organizationally?
Equity must become the lens through which we view all that we do as an organization and a profession. The team that developed the Equity Policy Guide together with the APA Diversity Committee have provided an exceptional service to APA by building a strong foundation for equity, diversity and inclusion, both within APA and the larger planning profession. Now, our responsibility to future generations of planners is to ensure that diversity and inclusion become the warp and weft woven into our organization and our professional outlook such that we no longer have to consciously think about them because they are a large part of who we are as planners and what we stand for in advocating for communities that serve all. Equity must be inherent in all policies, all professional development, and all planning education from this day forward.
We must also come face-to-face with our legacy as a profession in which our tools of zoning and capital planning were too often coopted in support of segregation and inequitable outcomes. Like it or not, large-lot single-family zoning has been used as a tool to prevent certain groups of residents while minority neighborhoods have frequently been asked to host capital investments with high degrees of negative externality or were ripped down and apart by new highways. I believe that we have an ethical and moral obligation as the future-focused profession to stand clearly and proudly for inclusive economic development, support of diverse and affordable neighborhoods and an equitable approach to place-making and community building.
What is the biggest challenge facing the planning profession, and how should APA address it?
We need to be Bold, Agile, Dynamic and Effective. Moreover, I believe we should be much more willing to shout from the mountaintops the successes and virtues of our profession and our members.
Advocacy is ever more critical in an era when facts are not considered facts, news is not trusted, data is suspect, and science is doubted. At its core, planning is a fact-based, data-driven profession that requires us to gain the trust of the residents while we are helping them discover and express their vision for their future of their communities. We have begun an increased focus on advocacy at the state and local levels; our efforts in this should be redoubled because most planning follows state enabling legislation and it is there that we can achieve significant changes. In the PlanningHome initiative and the recently adopted Housing Policy Guide, there is specific recognition that it is state and local codes that need to be modernized for us to achieve our goals of ensuring safe, sanitary and affordable housing in supportive neighborhoods with good educational opportunities, transit access and supportive services.
As we contemplate the future of our profession, we must ensure that the values and goals of planning are effectively translated to the next generation of planners. This requires developing closer ties between planning practice and planning education — this latter focus is not just with planning schools, but also making sure that the continuing education we provide to ourselves is relevant and value-driven.
Finally, we can and should do a better job at leadership development within APA. As this election demonstrates, there is an amazing talent pool at the top of our organization. However, not all of the components are as blessed. Chapters and Sections struggle to fill leadership positions — at least from time-to-time and some with disturbing frequency. The same is true for some of our Divisions. Providing our membership with the tools of leadership benefits our profession in many ways. Not only will APA be a stronger organization, so too will the communities in which our members live and work as they feel better prepared to participate and lead the myriad of entities that so enrich our cities, counties and towns.
Additional Candidate Information
George M. Homewood III, FAICP CFM also provided his curriculum vitae.