Newer Commissioners and Board Members Invited to Learn from Experienced Leaders
by Kristen E. Humphrey, MLA, Local Assistance and Training Planner
The need for a peer/leader support network has been discussed within the Maryland Planning Commissioners Association (MPCA) for some time. There have been several approaches developed over the past couple of years – stalled, though never stymied by the pandemic – but the fundamental idea remains unchanged – to pair up incoming or only recently established planning commission and board members with seasoned members.
Being new to the world of citizen planning may feel overwhelming or even downright confusing to recently appointed commissioners, therefore, the MPCA developed the Peer Leadership Network. It seeks to temper the intimidation factor and reduce the discomfort of being the one to “ask the dumb question” in a room filled with more senior members.
By pairing individuals or small peer groups with a seasoned leader, the network provides an environment where experienced individuals are available to answer pragmatic questions (“How do I read this site plan?” or “What is a PFA and how does that direct development in the community?”), share anecdotes (“How I Handled the Hairiest Public Meeting Ever”), and offer general (non-project-specific) advice.
Network structure is left to participants – it can be as formal or informal as desired. Interaction can be via email, Zoom/Go-to-Meeting/MS Teams, etc., or in-person gatherings after work. They can be on an as-needed, hey-I’ve-got-this-burning-question basis, or it can take on the form of a monthly one-on-on meet-up.
The benefits of getting involved are numerous including networking, camaraderie that comes with shared experiences, transfer/exchange of knowledge, and confidence-building while skill-building in otherwise unfamiliar territory. And, as with all forms of teaching at all levels, often the leaders and teachers report getting as much out of the experience as the students, or in this case, the peers. And of course, there is no extra charge for FUN.
Meet the Peer Leaders
From time to time, we feature the backgrounds/bios of those who have volunteered to share their expertise. First up are several of MPCAs esteemed board members, plus one leader who is newly active in the MPCA and boasts some impressive experience:
Danny Winborne, MPCA President and Conference Planning Committee Chairman
In addition to serving as MPCA President, Danny Winborne is also chairman of its annual conference planning committee. Danny is currently vice-chair of the City of Gaithersburg Planning Commission, having served as a commissioner since 2001.
In this role, Danny helps direct the growth and development of the city by reviewing all annexation requests, zoning applications, subdivision plats, development review plans, applications, and plans for municipal improvement. He frequently attends joint public hearings and work sessions with the mayor and city council on current and long-range planning and development issues. The commission is supported by the City Planning Division of the Department of Planning & Code Administration.
Danny has worked in the information technology field in both the public and private sectors for the past 35 years. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics (with a concentration in systems analysis and design) from Morgan State University, a Master of Science in Business Information Technology Management from Johns Hopkins University, and an Master of Business Administration from John Hopkins University.
About being a peer leader, Danny says, “sharing my knowledge and understanding of the citizen planning process not only helps others, but also helps me grow in my own knowledge and understanding!”
Doug Wright, MPCA Treasurer
Doug Wright has been a member of the MPCA board for six years and served as treasurer for the past five years. Doug was born and raised in Hagerstown and since 1988, he has served on the City of Hagerstown’s Planning Commission as chairperson since 1990.
Although he recently announced his retirement from the planning commission and MPCA’s leadership, Doug has generously agreed to act as a peer leader. With 35 years of experience to draw upon, Doug will undoubtedly be a great resource for those newly appointed to commissions or boards.
Doug adds that becoming a peer leader means, “helping people who are in the shoes I once filled, dedicated to their community and eager to learn, but new to the details and rigors of citizen planning.”
Roxanne Hemphill, MPCA Secretary
Roxanne Hemphill has been on the Town of Mount Airy Planning Commission since 2015. Prior to that she was a member of the board of appeals for 12 years, with nine of those years as chairperson. Roxanne holds a Master of Education from McDaniel College and has been a licensed real estate agent serving the Maryland and Northern Virginia region since 1990. She is certified by the National Association of Realtors as a short sale and foreclosure specialist. She is also active in her church where she sings in various choirs and serves on several committees.
Roxanne says she’s looking forward to being a peer leader because, “I want my fellow commissioners to realize that their work makes a difference and is appreciated, even when a hard public meeting might make it seem otherwise.”
Elizabeth Georg, MPCA Member
An MPCA member for seven years, Elizabeth (Liz) Georg is an attorney at Deep Creek Title Group in Oakland, Maryland. Liz is actively involved in the Garrett County community and is a director on the Garrett County Chamber of Commerce and First United Wealth Management Advisory Council. Additionally, she serves as chair of the Garrett County Economic Development Corporation and was appointed as a member to the Garrett County Planning Commission in 2016. Liz earned her juris doctorate from Vermont Law School and her undergraduate degree in political science from Idaho State University.
Liz says the reason she is volunteering is, “I’d like to act as a peer leader to assist those newly appointed to commissions as an educator, focusing on the role and responsibilities of a commissioner.”
To learn more about the MPCA, the Peer Leadership Network and how to become involved, please contact Joe Griffiths, Local Assistance and Training Planner, at firstname.lastname@example.org.