On November 29, 1979, Stan Steadman, Art Greenburg, Jim Richard, and Fred Roach, from Montana; Allan Merta from North Dakota; Ben Orsbon from South Dakota; and Dale Pernula from Wyoming met at the office of the Western Coal Planning Assistance project in Billings, Montana, and established The Western Planner (WP). The WP was established in newspaper form as a “journal of information and ideas for planners, their boards and commissions, and their multiple publics.” Since its inception, the WP has attempted, as a founding principle, to raise the general quality of planning in the Mountain-Plains area, through the sharing of ideas, planning news, and practical planning methods.
Although operated as a sole proprietorship by Stan Steadman for the first nine years, the policies of the WP were directed by the affiliated member states through editorial board members along with Stan Steadman. The state associations shared control of the WP and each mutually benefited from the “marriage.”
The initial member organizations in 1979 were Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming and were soon followed by APA Colorado (1980), Utah (1980), Nebraska (1981), Washington (1982), Western Central Chapter of APA (1983), Alaska (1984), and Idaho (1984).
In 1987, at the Western Regional Planning Conference in Billings, Montana, the editorial board voted to create Western Planning Resources, Inc. (WPR). The board adopted a set of bylaws and voted in officers. The intent of WPR was to build on the solid foundation of the WP, but also broaden its mission to include the publication of educational materials and conducting continuing education seminars.
In January 1989, at a special meeting of the WPR Board of Directors in Littleton, Colorado, WPR negotiated a purchase agreement with Stan Steadman to obtain ownership of the WP. Since then, the ownership of WP has been in the hands of WPR, and under the direction of the WPR Board of Directors. Other editors of The Western Planner have included David Conine, Steve Kurtz, Debbie Ehlers, and Rachel Girt.
State associations continue to share control of the WP by appointing members to the WPR Board of Directors, which continues to act in the same manner as the previous editorial board. The state board members serve on the WPR Board with no financial compensation as a service to their state planning organizations and to other Western Planners.
Business meetings are held in conjunction with the annual conference and cover a full range of activities undertaken by WPR, including the development of an annual operating plan and budget for the WP.
Many changes have occurred in the Mountain-Plains region, and in planning in general, since the beginning of the WP in 1979. However, the WP family remains a strong, vibrant collegial group dedicated to its founding principle.