2017 Award Winners for The Western Planner

by Dan Pava, AICP

City Park in downtown Spearfish, South Dakota played host to the annual Western Planner Awards on September 14. The awards were presented along with those from the Wyoming Planning Association after the famous Wyoming vs. the World softball Game followed by a tasty and musical Bar BQ dinner. Seven award winners were recognized by Western Planner President-elect Dan Pava.

There were two recipients of the Sheldon D. Gerber Merit Award for Excellence in Environmental Planning - one for a project and one for an individual.  This award recognizes outstanding achievements in environmental planning, which can be in the form of a project, report, or the professional efforts of a planner. A WPR Board member at the time of his death in May 1991, Sheldon inspired many of us whose lives he touched to do two things: “Go the extra distance to accomplish well what it is you set out to do, and take time to smell the roses.” This award also recognizes individuals who are striving to improve our environment and protect our natural world.


The City of Casper Wyoming was recognized for its recently approved Generation Casper Comprehensive Plan. According to Casper planner Aaron Kloke, “This project was launched and branded under the premise that considering the last Comprehensive Plan was adopted in 2000, a generation of Casperites, or 20% of our community, had grown up without having the conversation to consider how land use and transportation affect their quality of life. At the same time, Casper has found itself with an older than average population in a country where the average person is getting younger and younger, and due to this, has striven to be a community that serves all generations, existing and future… most importantly, it was the way in which these conclusions and strategies came about in the most authentic way possible, by addressing real Casper issues.”

Professor David L. Bell MLA of Utah State University Cooperative Extension at Logan received the Sheldon D. Gerber Merit Award for Excellence in Environmental Planning for an individual. Bell’s nomination noted that, “As a passionate Landscape Architect, David Bell’s talents and knowledge have been valued both inside and outside the classroom. Bell has long provided design services and promoted effective planning practices throughout rural Utah. Dozens of communities have been helped with projects such as master plans, downtown redevelopment plans, parks, recreation and open space planning, community entry feature designs, and countless other landscape projects. His understanding of rural people, places, and policies has helped many communities achieve their goals.” While he could not make it to Spearfish, Bell is a regular at Western Planner conferences.


The Citizen Planner of the Year Award was given to Spearfish Dentist and inventor (think about those little water vacuums when you get your teeth cleaned) Bob Meyer, who has served on the Planning Commission for 25 years. This award recognizes a lay person who has made a difference and distinguished themselves as a champion and leader of an effort, campaign, project or program that embodies the principles of good planning.  Spearfish Planning Director Jayna Watson relates that Bob was nominated because of his passion for and love of planning, and his ability to “tell it like it is from the dais…he listens intently…he is unafraid to reject arguments that don’t fly…He pours through the details…Bob’s only agenda is excellence. He works every day to achieve it.”

The Planner of the Year Award went to Don Albrecht, Executive Director of the Western Rural Development Center.  This award honors individuals who have the fortitude, skill, and humor necessary to be recognized advocates on behalf of planning in the West. His nomination informed us that, “For several years Don Albrecht has headed the Western Rural Development Center’s (WRDC) “Area Sector Analysis Process” model (ASAP), an economic development process developed by Albrecht with a regional team from Utah, New Mexico, Nevada, Montana, and Idaho that is being implemented in counties across the western United States… The ASAP model integrates community desires into economic development, a critical step in the planning process that is often left out of economic development efforts but that is increasingly critical for relocating businesses and new startups.”


The Western Planner Rural Innovation Award for 2017 was bestowed to the cities of Driggs and Victor, Idaho for preparing new land development codes. The nominators explain that, “The Model Code from which the two codes stemmed from is designed to be transferable to other communities in the West. The full Model Code is available online in an Adobe InDesign format along with a handbook for other communities to see how the Code can be customized. The website www.tetonvalleycode.org also hosts the Codes for Driggs and Victor and a draft code for Teton County, Idaho for the public and other planners in the west to have access to. It is our intent in applying for this award to further showcase these Codes.” The Rural Innovation Award is intended to recognize precisely this kind of effort.


The Sheridan Joint Planning Area (an Orion Planning and Design) received an honorable mention Rural Innovation Award for the Land Use Plan 2017, which was a joint effort by the City of Sheridan and Sheridan County, Wyoming.  The nomination points out that, “While the plan is innovative in its approach, the unique, cooperative partnership between the city and county governments truly set it apart. The plan was not a mandated or compulsory effort dictated by statute…It was conceived, financed and driven locally by the shared sense of what can make Sheridan’s future the best it can be.” For further information go to https://sheridanwy.net/wp content/uploads/2011/11/sheridan_jpa_plan_200904_withmaps.pdf 


Pava announced that Matt Ashby had won the Lester Award. The Lester recognizes a planner who has “extinguished” him or herself in the line of duty. Let’s face it: Being a planner in the West can be pretty difficult. One way we cope is by having a sense of humor about the crazy things that happen both to and around us in the course of doing our jobs. The award honors those who have survived the bizarre world of planning in the West. Ashby, who now works with Ayres and Associates was honored for his Extinguished Concurrent Service as both the Planning Director for Cheyenne WY and serving as the President of the Western Planner during a time of great transition.

Steadman People’s Choice Award is a take on the past Feature Article of the Year. Over the course of the year, we’ve had outstanding articles that bring real-world planning issues in the west to your doorstep.  In 2002, the WPR Editorial Board decided to name the Article of the Year Award after The Western Planner Founder Stan Steadman. Stan was the original publisher of The Western Planner journal and served as editor for many years. Many board members believe that without Stan, there would not be a WP Journal.

 Two articles tied for the People's Choice Award and both were published in the July/August 2016 issue. Harley-Davidson Rally Point in Downtown Sturgis, South Dakota was written by Jessica Holdren and Ranching with Fire and Rangeland Fire Protection Associations: Livelihoods, resiliency, and adaptive capacity of rural Idaho by Kyle McCormick, MRCP, and Dr. Thomas Wuerzer. The runner-up was Changing climate heats up ski resort summer uses in Nevada written by Nick Exline, AICP in the February/March 2016 issue.

Published in September 2017

Paul Moberly