Constance Lieder: A Pioneer in Maryland Planning

Women in Planning Series: Part II

by Chuck Boyd, Director, Planning Coordination
with Kristen E. Humphrey, MLA, Local Assistance and Training Planner

If you have been a planner for a while, then you have likely worked on your share of comprehensive plans — especially if you have moved around a bit, as I have over the years. The first thing I always did when preparing to write a new comprehensive plan was to read the plan that came before it, to get the lay of the land of the community.

But what if there was no prior plan? That is where our pioneers of planning, like Constance (“Connie”) Lieder, come in. Lieder, like so many of her contemporaries, laid the very groundwork for the future of planning across the state, not to mention blazing a trail for professional women planners in Maryland.

Screenshot Constance Lieder

Photo of Constance Lieder, Secretary of the Department of State Planning, 1979-1989. Maryland Manual Online: A Guide to Maryland and its Government.

Lieder began her career in the early 1960s, having graduated with a B.A. from Wellesley College in 1956, the Harvard Graduate School of Design with a Master of City Planning in 1960, earning numerous awards and fellowships, and ultimately serving as Maryland’s first female Secretary of State Planning (today’s Maryland Department of Planning) from 1979-1989, at a time when few women were even working within the profession, much less in leadership roles.

From 1977-1978, Lieder served as the president of the American Institute of Planners (AIP). During her tenure, she championed the AIP’s merger with the American Society of Planning Officials (ASPO) to form the American Planning Association, the nation’s largest organization of professional planners.

In researching her career, I discovered time and again, that the programs and policies the Maryland Department of Planning is administering today were initiated during her tenure with the department. From her work on identifying and protecting Areas of Critical Concern[1], to the creation of the Patuxent River Watershed Policy Plan adopted in 1984, to her advocacy of strengthening existing Maryland communities including Baltimore City via reinvestment in their infrastructure – each of these represents a watershed moment in the evolution of planning within our state.

With the recent adoption of Maryland’s second state development plan in 2019, entitled A Better Maryland, it is evident how Lieder’s leadership, the vision she held for the future of development in the state, and the priorities she helped to articulate, laid the foundation for this latest phase of planning. A prime example once again, it was through her efforts to get the eight counties and numerous municipalities of the Patuxent watershed to recognize the importance of working together, that the subsequent successes of the Patuxent River Commission can be credited.

Lieder helped these diverse stakeholders appreciate that land use decisions made by upstream jurisdictions directly impacted downstream communities and, for the first time, a policy plan was created that established an outline for the implementation of best management and land use practices with specific goals and recommendations.

Similarly, the “smart growth” principles that Maryland is now known for worldwide were concepts espoused by Lieder years before the term was even coined. Specifically, Lieder recognized the importance of our urban centers. In her testimony before the White House Conference on Balance, National Growth and Economic Development on February 1, 1978, Lieder highlighted the challenges of cities like Baltimore and the need for economic development assistance that focused on local government operations, which had been often overlooked by the federal government.

To be named to the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) College of Fellows, to which Lieder was inducted in 2002, is the highest honor the APA bestows upon its members. It was the College of Fellows that most aptly described Lieder as “a pioneer” on its website, further stating, “As Maryland Secretary of State Planning, she initiated programs in smart growth. As President of the American Institute of Planners (AIP), she shepherded its merger with ASPO. Her professional achievements focus on urban regeneration, land protection, and tourism. Her personal achievements exemplify women’s role in planning.”[2]

In 1983, during the fifty-year celebration of state planning and the associated Conference on Maryland’s Future, then Secretary Lieder made a profound statement planners everywhere would do well to remember: “The future may not be predicable, but it does depend on what we do individually, collectively and inadvertently. We have an obligation…to prepare for it and do what we can to direct it in the ways we think are important.”[3] As a Maryland Department of Planning employee, I continue to be guided by those words and the leadership she has offered to us all. 

To learn more about Constance Lieder’s accomplishments and legacy, which are far too many to enumerate here, please refer to the following sources:

Women in Planning – Historical Perspective (APA website):

Biographical Information:

Examples of work accomplished during time as MDP Secretary:

Planning an Urban Oasis; An interview with Constance Lieder (2019 Fall/Winter Interview in the Maryland Environmental Trust’s magazine, Land Marks) :

[1] Areas of Critical Concern are defined as specific geographic area of the state found to be so unusual or significant to the state that the Secretary designates it for special management attention to assure the preservation, conservation, or utilization of its special values.

[2] American Planning Association, AICP College of Fellows website.

[3] Maryland’s Future: the next fifty years, Sponsored by the Maryland State Planning Commission and Department of State Planning, 1983, p.5.

2 thoughts on “Constance Lieder: A Pioneer in Maryland Planning

  1. What a pleasant surprise to see this article acknowledging Connie’s leadership and work as Secretary of Planning in the Hughes administration. She was a pioneer in pressing the value in land snd growth planning.
    I was the other Connie in the Hughes administration serving as his Appointments Officer. Connie was also a dog of those dogs became part of our family that was loved by four children for many years.
    Thank you for acknowledging her as one of the early female administrators in State government. She deserves recognition and thank you for doing so.
    Regards, Connie Beims

  2. Thank you for commenting, Connie! Glad you enjoyed it. Hope you will enjoy the rest of the series, as well.

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