The more complete story!
Valdis (Val) Lazdins, joined Planning as Assistant Secretary of Planning Services shortly before going to press with our November issue of Planning Practice Monthly. Thus we gave him a quick introduction but promised to share his history more fully in a future edition:
Val was born and raised in the Michigan resort town of Grand Haven, on the Lake Michigan shoreline, where he spent summers on the beach and surfed as a teen. He graduated from Michigan State with a degree in landscape architecture and went on to the Ohio State University where he received his Master’s in City and Regional Planning. His first job took him to Denver where he worked primarily on large scale land development projects, new town planning for energy workers during Colorado’s first oil shale boom, and ski resort design – a real treat for a ski buff.
Following the the oil shale bust out west, Val and his family moved east to Columbia, MD where he was a principal at LDR International, founded by former Rouse company members. There he led many of LDR’s planning and urban design projects such as the replacement of D.C.’s Woodrow Wilson Bridge. He has also had the opportunity to work with some of the nation’s premier designers of golf courses and resort communities. He claims to have golfed in every season in Michigan, no small feat, we are sure!
Eventually family ties took him back to Michigan where he worked on plans to regenerate various downtown areas in the Rust Belt. Val was a principal in a consulting firm until extensive travel associated with work in Alaska, including Kodiak Island, eventually got the better of him. To cut down on glamorous plane travel, Val and his family moved back to Maryland in 2012, where he has worked as Chief of Research and Special Projects for the MNCPPC and as Planning Director for Howard County.
Both Val’s parents and his wife, Inara’s, parents came to the United States as refugees from Latvia following the Second World War, arriving with just a suitcase and a dream. Everyone in his family is proudly fluent in Latvian and he and his wife have traveled there to visit relatives. A fun fact is that Inara’s cousin is the former planning director (while Latvia was part of Soviet Union) for Riga, Latvia’s capital city.
Val and Inara have three sons, two in the San Francisco Bay area and one in D.C., and the eldest son has made them grandparents times two. Of course he and Inara hope the young family will be moving closer to them at some point. Finally, a bonus of living adjacent to the Chesapeake Bay, Val is now enjoying summers sailing out of Solomons Island on a boat co-owned with his brother-in-law.