Featured Planner: Erick Aune, former President, APA New Mexico

Erick Aune

Erick Aune

Describe your current job.

I am currently the Officer of the Santa Fe Metropolitan Planning Organization. I have been working for the Santa Fe MPO for just over 5 years and was promoted to Officer in January of 2019. My work with Santa Fe MPO and all elements of transportation planning has been highly diverse and impactful. We are currently finalizing a draft of the 2019 Bicycle Master Plan a project that updates the 2012 Plan. Working toward the advancement of a transportation network that supports the mobility and access for individuals whether they walk, bike, take the bus or drive can be a daunting task given the nature of our automobile dominated culture. Regardless good work is being implements by out member agencies, striving to make all modes of transportation a viable choice for all. 


What did you want to be when you grew up?

Definitely Spider-Man! 


How did you get into the planning profession? 

The planning profession more or less discovered me after I moved to New Mexico fresh out of Michigan State University. I’m fortunate it found me. My undergraduate studies leaned toward environmental studies and my Masters work focused on natural resources management. The then USDA hosted an AmeriCorps program called the 4-Corners Rural Development Program. I applied and was accepted and stationed in the small town of Aztec located in northwest New Mexico. I spent almost 2 years working with fellow AmeriCorps members stationed in the 4-Corner States of Arizona, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico gaining invaluable professional experiences, enjoying the company of extraordinary people and traveling the Wild West. My work lead to a job application and invitation to become the Planning Director for the City of Aztec where I served for seven years in what can only be described as a highly colorful whirlwind of all things community development.    


Describe your planning background and education.

My education, as I described, had really impactful elements found in the diverse field of planning. Land Use Law, Natural Resource Development, Agricultural Engineering, Hydrogeology, Environmental Studies, Sociology and other courses that eventually supported a door opening into the professional world of planning. From the beginning I met role models in the field connected with the American Planning Association and quickly became involved locally, regionally, and nationally. I became certified in 1999 a few years into my career and utilized the professional space offered to me to explore project management, transportation planning, downtown revitalization via the New Mexico Main Street Program, comprehensive planning, regulatory revisions to zoning and subdivisions and countless other experiences that allow me to continue to genuinely enjoy working in the Southwest. 


Describe your favorite planning project. Why was it your favorite? What was your role?

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I have been fortunate to have worked on some exceptional projects, most team led, but my favorite was the downtown revitalization initiative in Aztec, New Mexico that encompassed a number of efforts and initiatives over the course of several years.  The heart of Aztec included its historic downtown Main Street, neighborhoods and the Animas River, one of the last untamed (at least undammed) Rivers in New Mexico and the region. 

The project included: 

  • Developing and supporting an active Main Street Board,

  • Becoming and accredited New Mexico Main Street Program, 

  • Developing a long range vision and plans, 

  • Grant writing and implementation for public improvements

  • Designing and building a public courtyard, 

  • Hosting a University of New Mexico Design Planning Assistance Center project where a student team of landscape architects and planners utilized downtown and its environs to design innovative ideas for revitalization, preservation and celebration. 

  • Being part of a team planning and implementing annual downtown community events such as Oktoberfest, Springfling, Founders Day, Christmas Parades and Aztec’s Fiesta Days all celebrating the built environment, community, arts and culture. 

Why do you belong to the Western Planner? Why is the Western Planner valuable to you as a planner?  

Working in the West has unique cultural aspects, and Western Planner has always provided access to a support network and to resources that speak well to the opportunities and challenges facing our communities. I find value in a collective community of leadership that both honors and champions the work planners do in the West.