Indiana Chapter - American Planning Association

Message from the President

Posted on July 19th, by admin in APA Indiana. No Comments

As many of you know, the Board and I worked hard over the past two years to improve our organization and make some changes that will help us better serve you and our communities. As with any kind of organizational change, it has not always been easy, and some have wondered why it was necessary at all.

Many of us have struggled or are still struggling with changes in the workplace, employment and income. As a consultant, I often find myself telling my clients and the public that change is something that will happen regardless of whether we want it to or not. The question is, do we want to be able to affect what that change might be or do we want to leave it to chance? Over the past few years, our chapter has reached what I would argue is a point of inflection. This is a time when we realize how we have operated in the past is not keeping up with the changing needs of our members, our communities and our profession. This is no criticism of the tireless effort that many present and past board members and volunteers have given to this organization. Their contributions have been what made us who we are today.

As we reached our inflection point, we recognized a number of factors that have led us to where we are now. These included:

  • Larger demand for low cost education programs that increased with the advent of CM.
  • A need to better articulate our values of good planning and building better communities, not just through our members, but for our members. We have fallen behind other organizations such as AIA, ULI and ASLA in getting directly involved in the dialogue of what makes good communities.
  • Changing technology and the need to refocus our communications so our membership can be more engaged in the chapter and we, as a chapter, can better offer our services through new avenues.
  • A need to reinvigorate the chapter’s leadership both in terms of our need to challenge the status-quo in how we operate and to work on becoming more inclusive and help build the chapter leaders of tomorrow.
  • A strained relationship with our national APA organization and realizing that by embracing the “One APA” philosophy we can deliver better value to our members.

We have accomplished a lot, and, as a chapter, we want to accomplish so much more. As a Board, we realized that our organization’s needs outpaced the resources that we have available to meet those needs. This is a point in time that many all-volunteer non-profit organizations have faced or will face. We were presented with two options, try to do what we have always done and make do, or start reinventing the way we do things to expand our capacity and our abilities. We chose the latter. Last year, the Board engaged in a six-month long strategic planning process. Our current strategic plan and mission of “Educate. Advocate. Lead” was born from that process. The plan is ambitious and recognizes the tough steps that we must take to make our organization stronger.

So what have we done with that plan?

We made some great strides over the past year with the unveiling of our new website and social media programs. We moved away from our traditional printed newsletter to more of a blog format with articles coming out on a regular basis. These are accessible on our website and our Facebook page. We are working to continue to expand this program. Look for future changes to our Listserv down the road.

Many of you noticed changing faces on the Board. As with any organizational change, some of our past leadership decided to pursue other opportunities for volunteerism. We appreciate the service that they provided the chapter. This turnover has brought new leadership that brings fresh ideas to the Board. We are working hard to expand our committees to give more opportunities for chapter members to become active as well as start gaining experience for future leadership opportunities. In addition, we are working to become more transparent by posting our agendas and minutes on the website so you know how we are being good stewards of your chapter. Finally, we had the outstanding assistance of Karen Valencic (who many of you met at our Spring Conference) who helped coach both me and the Board on how to best grapple with the changes that we needed to make. Remember “Find Your Center!”

We worked hard over the past two years to improve our relationship with national APA. We are more active in the Chapter President’s Council, a great organization to compare and share ideas between the chapters, and took a leadership role working to implement the new APA integrated elections policy that will be unrolled in 2014.

We are working hard to implement more low-cost education and networking opportunities. Our At-Large Regional Representatives have accepted the additional responsibility of organizing two low-cost events in each of our three regions of the state per year. We first started these last year and were very successful. We are expanding those offerings this year. Contact your region-reps for more information.

Finally, one of our major inflection points was our limited resources as an all-volunteer organization. This designation is soon changing. As some of you know, the Board is in the midst of a selection process for a Chapter Administrator. This paid position will be directly responsible for providing staff assistance to our Board and chapter committees. This staffing will provide a more integrated and singular point of communications and remove the administrative burden that often keeps our chapter leadership from working to their full potential. We are currently interviewing finalists for the position and hope to make an announcement and introduction at our Fall Conference.

Hiring paid staff is a big step and a big change for our Chapter. We hope this will help to address some of the issues that are holding us back from doing so much more. We are extremely aware of the fiscal commitment this will bring but hope that this will also be an investment to leverage more resources than we can muster today. Our Board is proud of our history of fiscal management, and that tradition will continue.

This has definitely been a time of change for our organization, but hopefully one in which we have seized upon the opportunities to become bigger and better. The stage is now set for more great things to come!

Yours in Service,


Shane Burkhardt, AICP

Chapter President

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