2018 Western Planner Award recipients

by Dan Pava, FAICP

The 2018 Western Planner Awards ceremony took place on a warm and hazy August 7 evening at the Fort Hall ballfields, immediately after the famous Wyoming vs. the World softball game concluded with yet another record win for Wyoming. Western Planning Resources (WPR) President-Elect Dan Pava, FAICP recognized seven awards during the outdoor event that included a tasty barbecue dinner and some fine picking and singing by Rocky Watson.

President’s Award

Megan Nelms, AICP receives President's Award from Dan Pava, FAICP.

Megan Nelms, AICP receives President's Award from Dan Pava, FAICP.

Pava began by announcing that Megan Nelms, AICP was the recipient of the 2018 President’s Award. Megan is the planning director for Campbell County, WY  and the treasurer for WPR. Recognition for many years of quality contributions, outstanding dedication, and perseverance through challenging times and are all qualities that have been previously honored. WPR President Angela Parker, AICP nominated Megan, stating, “She has worked hard the last couple of years (and before that!) to keep us moving forward.  I appreciate all her work as treasurer—and all the additional support she has given Western Planner by volunteering to help with editing our bylaws and reorganizing in Wyoming.

Sheldon D. Gerber Merit Award for Excellence in Environmental Planning

Luke LaLiberty accepted the award from Dan Pava, FAICP.

Luke LaLiberty accepted the award from Dan Pava, FAICP.

Pava then announced that KLJ Consultants and the North Dakota Department of Transportation were the recipients for the Sheldon D. Gerber Merit Award for Excellence in Environmental Planning this year.  KLJ prepared the U.S Highway 85 Wildlife Crossing System Study as part the National Environmental Policy Act review. The Gerber 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.”  Luke LaLiberty from KLJ’s Helena office was on hand to accept the award while also playing in the aforementioned ball game.

Citizen Planner of the Year Award

Robert Griego, AICP accepts award from Dan Pava, FAICP.

Robert Griego, AICP accepts award from Dan Pava, FAICP.

The Citizen Planner of the Year Award was given to Robert Griego, AICP, the Planning Manager of Santa Fe County in New Mexico. Pava noted that Robert’s ties in Santa Fe go back many generations and that he came to planning as a community activist protecting Santa Fe’s heritage during a time of rapid change that affected neighborhoods and the character of the city itself. The Citizen Planner Award recognizes either a professional planner or a lay person that has distinguished themselves as a champion and leader of a project or program that embodies the principles of planning.  The individual should have demonstrated exceptional skill at problem identification and solving, process development and implementation, and/or public outreach and communication.  Above all, the planner will have conducted themselves ethically and with humor and compassion towards those they strive to benefit. Robert’s nomination states, “He is often the unsung hero in the office and in the field. Behind the scenes, he vehemently advocates for his employees, defending their opportunities for professional development and their desires to continuously improve the county. He is also an avid advocator for the public.” 

Planner of the Year Award

The Planner of the Year Award went to Sara Fraser, Community Development Department Director of the Kodiak Island Borough in Alaska. The Planner of the Year award honors individuals who have the fortitude, skill, and humor necessary to be recognized practitioners and outspoken advocates on behalf of planning in the West. According to her nomination, as soon as she became the director, Sara quickly established herself as a very competent and an excellent public servant.  Her big-picture thinking, attention to detail, encyclopedic knowledge of code and state law (it really is amazing), and patience have made her a trusted asset and sought-after expert not only in our department but also throughout the Borough overall. Sara has overseen several major improvements to Kodiak's antiquated zoning code, most prominent among these a new Accessory Dwelling Unit ordinance, a small-lot development zone, a communications towers ordinance, and more flexible regulations allowing for small livestock and agriculture in urban areas. Sara has been instrumental in making our department a place that people enjoy when looking for property information, zoning compliance, or other help.  This has made it a great place to work every day.

There was also a Planner of the Year Award Honorable Mention that went to Michael Becker CM & AICP, who is the Senior Aviation Planner in the Northwest Mountain Region, Airport Planning Services Group for RS&H Consulting in Denver. Becker has more than 17 years of experience managing and supporting airport planning projects. Most recently, he completed a plan based on intensive stakeholder participation, for taxiway improvements to prevent runway incursions at the Juneau airport.

Rural Innovation Award

Angela Mejia accepts the award for the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes Planning Program.

Angela Mejia accepts the award for the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes Planning Program.

The Rural Innovation Award for 2018 was bestowed upon Shelly Wade, AICP and Agnew::Beck Consulting, and the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes Planning Program. Pava told the audience that Shelly and her staff at Agnew::Beck, along with the Shoshone-Bannock planning and housing staff had done an exemplary job putting together a major regional tribal planning conference. He noted that this effort deserved recognition as a template for future conferences in the Western Planner states and that it would help elevate tribal planning to the prominence that is deserved in the national planning community and the American Planning Association.

Steadman People’s Choice Award

The Linking Tahoe: Multimodal Transportation Management Plan included detailed recommendations for transit services and route, prioritized gaps in bikeways, proposed sidewalks; and most importantly, identified numerous mobility hub locations throughout the Lake Tahoe Basin and at key interception points.  An overall summary of the transit recommendations is shown in Figure 4.

This year's recipient of the Steadman People’s Choice Award was the article MINING CELL PHONE DATA TO CREATE A MULTIMODAL TRANSPORTATION PLAN FOR LAKE TAHOE by Cynthia J. Albright, AICP-CUD, GISP. The article was published in August 2017. To create the Linking Tahoe: Multimodal Transportation Management Plan on behalf of the Tahoe Transportation District (TTD), Stantec analyzed cell phone data from an enormously large geographic area. We gained unprecedented insights into the magnitude of visitors and their travel patterns.  This article highlights a few of our findings and some lessons learned.  Cell phone data enabled us to develop an innovative transportation management plan using the newest information technology and sophisticated ArcGIS tools to visualize the results. The Article of the Year Award  is named 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.

Lester Award

Pava closed the awards ceremony announcing that WPR Past-President Candi Millar, AICP had won the Lester Award. The Lester recognizes a planner who has “extinguished” him or herself in the line of duty. Millar, who now resides in Olympia, Washington was honored for her two-term serving as the WPR President during a time of great transition, while wrapping up a distinguished career as the planning director of Billings, Montana. 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. WPR enjoys recognizing planners who have carried on this proud tradition. 


Dan Pava, FAICP is president-elect of Western Planning Resources. He has practiced environmental planning primarily in New Mexico, Oregon and California over his 35 year career. Prior to serving on the Sustainable Santa Fe Commission, Pava was on the Planning Commission and the Santa Fe Railyard Development Review Committee.

Published August 2018

Paul Moberly