Lower Eastern Shore’s Critical Area Circuit Rider Internship Program

Celebrating 10 Years of Outstanding Student Contributions

Planning Assistance in Action

By Kristen E. Humphrey, MLA, Local Assistance and Training Planner, with Tracy Gordy, Senior Regional Planner 

Each August for the past ten years, the Maryland Department of Planning (Planning) has hosted a new Salisbury University (SU) student intern at Planning’s Lower Eastern Shore regional office. A decade later, and in spite of a global pandemic, this year is no exception as planners Tracey Gordy and Keith Lackie will welcome the program’s eleventh student intern to the Critical Area Circuit Rider Internship early this fall.  

To celebrate this milestone, we would like to spotlight three interns out of all of the outstanding SU Geography and Geosciences students to come through the program.  

Jaleesa Tate participated in the second year of the program in 2011-2012 assisting with the Town of East New Market’s zoning ordinance update. Following her internship and graduation from SU, Jaleesa went on to work for the Wicomico County-City of Salisbury and Baltimore City Planning Departments. Today, she works for the Maryland Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) as State Hazard Mitigation Officer and Branch Manager.

About her time in the program, Jaleesa says, “Witnessing the dedication and expertise of the MDP Lower Eastern Shore Regional Office instilled the importance of compassion in me. My experience taught me what it means to be a dedicated public servant and set me on a course to serve Maryland communities. As a current state employee, it feels like my journey has come full circle and I am thankful for the skills and knowledge I gained during the course of my internship in order to better serve communities now.” 

The following academic year, 2012-2013, Sean Adkins worked both on a state development plan and Septic Tier Maps (SB.236) for rural communities on the Eastern Shore. These maps are important because they help local governments plan for residential growth on both public sewer and septic systems and are adopted into local comprehensive plans. Sean went on to study GIS and the implication of geographic data on public policy, earning his Master of Science in GIS Management also from SU. He now works as Senior GIS Analyst for Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) in Washington, D.C.

About the value of his internship, Sean says, “One of the best things about the internship was the hands-on experience of working with communities. The chance to see how policy can affect the day-to-day on the ground helped me gain important perspectives and an elevated level of empathy. Working with Keith and Tracey, I learned how to be a professional public servant as the program offers constructive opportunities to work with elected officials and the public. Finally, the internship program instilled strong communication and leadership qualities which have proved critical to my career.” 

Cole Fisher, also an SU Geography and Geosciences student, performed his internship a few years later in 2015-2016. His work in the Lower Eastern Shore  office centered around assisting local governments with Priority Funding Area (PFA) certifications for dozens of annexed areas. Certification of these areas as PFAs qualifies these areas for state funding opportunities. Following his internship,  he was hired by the City of Virginia Beach, Virginia as an environmental/land use planner and is  currently a Transportation/GIS Planner for the Virginia Beach Department of Planning and Community Development.

About his internship, Cole says, “I started my internship with Tracey and Keith back in the fall of 2015 when I was only 18 years old. At that point in my life (like most 18-year-olds), I was very ambivalent about what I envisioned myself doing in my career after college. After one semester of classes learning about planning at Salisbury University, I had the privilege of being mentored by Tracey and Keith for the next two semesters. And, after working on projects involving Priority Funding Areas and the Critical Area Program, I began to envision myself as a future city planner. Tracey and Keith’s knowledge, wisdom, and experience helped guide me in the direction that life was already naturally pushing me; I undoubtedly would not be where I am today as a City Planner for the City of Virginia Beach without them.”  

In addition to Critical Area work, that has benefitted the municipalities of Crisfield, Princess Anne, Fruitland, Mardela Springs, Sharptown, Snow Hill, Vienna, and Secretary, SU students also support Planning staff in the review of annexations, state Clearinghouse items, water and sewer plan amendments, and comprehensive plans. A few of some of the other capstone projects which the interns have completed are: 

2010-2011  Chesapeake Bay Critical Area Program Administration. Intern: Emily Kuzmiw. Emily implemented the Critical Area Law for five Lower Eastern Shore municipalities; essentially functioning as their municipal environmental planner in reviewing building permits, site plans, and subdivision requests for compliance with their respective ordinances. 

2013-2014 – Watershed Implementation Plans (WIP) ImplementationIntern: Chris Windsor. Chris provided technical assistance to Dorchester and Somerset counties in development of Watershed Implementation Plans (WIP) in furtherance of meeting federal Total Maximum Daily Load requirements for the Chesapeake Bay and tidal tributaries.  

2014-2015 – Town of East New Market Historic District Commission Guidelines. Intern: Andy Estrain. Andy conducted research and developed recommendations on establishing architectural design guidelines for the Town of East New Market’s historic district, which the town adopted in 2015.   

2016-2017 – Climate Adaptation Analysis for the Lower Eastern Shore RegionIntern: Hunter Phillips. Hunter performed an analysis of Worcester County’s Comprehensive and Hazard Mitigation Plans contributing to a statewide review and compilation of climate adaptation which was subsequently presented to the State Climate Adaptation Workgroup. 

2017-2018 – Town of Sharptown Critical Area Ordinance and Modified Buffer Areas. Intern: Crysta Draayer. Crysta assisted with the update of the town’s Critical Area Ordinance and performed a detailed analysis of proposed Modified Buffer Areas (MBA) which allowed the town to adopt its first ever MBAs. The analysis now serves as a model for other Critical Area communities.    

2018-2019 – Town of Hebron Sustainable Communities DesignationIntern: Catherine Skeeter. Catherine was the primary author of the town’s Sustainable Communities Action Plan which focuses on economic, environmental, transportation, housing, and quality of life strengths, weaknesses, goals, and implementation strategies. The plan was locally adopted and approved by the state and now qualifies the town to apply for grants to implement it.  

2019-2020 – Somerset County / Town of Princess Anne Enterprise Zone Expansion ApplicationIntern: Nick Johnson. Nick assisted with the expansion application submitted to the Maryland Department of Commerce to include newly established and proposed commercial businesses along U.S. Route 13 and performed the GIS analysis to create the required mapping for the application.  

A number of the interns have gone on to careers in planning and related fields, working with public agencies such as the Worcester County Soil Conservation District and the Harford County Planning Department; private companies such as Vision Planning and Consulting, LLC (located in Fulton, MD); or are currently pursuing advanced degrees such as a Master’s of Community Planning (University of Maryland College Park).  

This year’s intern will face a unique set of challenges given the constraints of offices being closed and nearly all public meetings occurring online. However, Planning will take on these challenges by implementing COVID-19 protocols such as social distancing, masks, and virtual instruction to assure everyone’s safety, thus insuring not only that the communities’ needs will be met, but also that 2020-2021’s intern will gain the valuable experience of working on key local government programs and projects. 

“There is no better way to learn than from caring and dedicated professionals,” said Secretary Rob McCord, “and Tracey and Keith are to be commended for leveraging their insights and inspiring new talent.” Congratulations to Tracey and Keith for creating a program that has become an indispensable means of accomplishing important work in the Lower Eastern Shore Region and has served as a springboard to so many promising careers! 

For more information on the Lower Eastern Shore Critical Areas Internship, please contact Tracey Gordy, Senior Regional Planner at tracey.gordy@maryland.gov or Keith Lackie, Regional Planner, at keith.lackie@maryland.gov 

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