News Release: September 27, 2018

APA CEO James M. Drinan, JD, Announces Retirement

Drinan led APA through dynamic period of growth and member engagement.

CHICAGO — James M. Drinan, JD, CEO of the American Planning Association (APA), a nonprofit educational organization that provides leadership in the development of vital communities, recently announced that he intends to retire in the coming year. Executive search firm The McCormick Group has been retained to lead the search for his successor.

“I have loved this job and the fabulous people who have shared in it with me. As much as I enjoy this work, I have come to the realization that I will enjoy not working even more,” Drinan said. “I am greatly appreciative of the opportunity I had to be the CEO of APA and the American Institute of Certified Planners. I am immensely proud of the staff, the member leadership, and what we accomplished over five years, and I will watch from afar as APA continues to make great progress with a terrific new CEO.”

Drinan was hired as the Executive Director of APA and AICP in May 2014 and is the first non-planner to occupy the role in the organization’s history. He played a critical role in reshaping the association’s culture by facilitating greater member engagement in its leadership and governance, and staff collaboration in its management.

Leading the organization through a time of national and global political uncertainty, his guidance expanded opportunities for members to become active in advocacy, established new member services, deepened key partnerships, and grew the role and prominence of APA as a respected, valuable voice on vital issues for good and just communities.

“Jim came to APA with 25 years of experience in association management, and in just five years, he has made a significant impact on our organizational development and member services," said Cynthia Bowen, FAICP, president of APA.

"Under his leadership, APA and AICP membership has grown to their highest levels in more than a decade, now numbering more than 40,000 planning professionals, and we’ve achieved a number of notable ‘firsts’ — the Board and Commission have recently adopted the knowledge-based governance process for strategic planning, AICP has introduced its Candidate Pilot Program streamlining the path to the credential for young professionals, the APA Foundation launched its first signature cause, and soon, we will be introducing APA Learn, a premier online learning platform. The collaborative spirit that now exists between APA and its chapters, divisions, and student groups has allowed us to revitalize all kinds of essential member programs. I want to thank Jim for all he’s done for the development and progress of APA.”

Drinan has had executive responsibility for a family of organizations throughout his career, including associations, foundations, international federations, for-profit subsidiaries, and political action committees. He has served as general counsel, lobbyist, and spokesperson for associations at the state and federal levels.

In 2017, Drinan was awarded the Samuel B. Shapiro Award for Chief Staff Executive Achievement by the Association Forum of Chicagoland. The award is the highest honor available in the field of association management, recognizing outstanding service and accomplishments throughout the recipient’s career.

“We all wish Jim happiness as he retires, are sad at his departure, and grateful for the transformation he brought to APA,” said Glenn Larson, AICP, the AICP president. “He will be missed.”

A native of Boston, Drinan plans to travel, spend more time with family and friends, and more time in leisure pursuits, especially his ongoing assistance for the Boston Red Sox to win the World Series. He will relocate to Ft. Myers, Florida, in early 2019.

The American Planning Association is an independent, not-for-profit educational organization. APA and its professional institute, the American Institute of Certified Planners, are dedicated to advancing the profession of planning — physical, economic and social — to foster quality of life for all residents. APA’s members work in concert with community members, civic leaders and business interests to create communities that enrich people's lives. Through its philanthropic work, the APA Foundation helps to reduce economic and social barriers to planning. APA has offices in Washington, D.C., and Chicago. Learn more at

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Harriet Bogdanowicz, APA,, 312-786-6719