Why I Became a Planner Blog Series – Bob Thompson
By Katie Bannon, AICP
Bob Thompson, AICP, APA-Indiana Chapter President, has been the Planning Director in Porter County, Indiana for over 15 years. Bob’s career in planning came about after first working in some of the more technical aspects of development, including subdivision infrastructure design and engineering. After receiving an associate’s degree in drafting and design technology, Bob worked for a consultant in Chicago designing water and sanitary systems. Through this position, he worked with many engineers. Although he didn’t want to move every year as engineers in this company were required to do, it did make him more interested in engineering.
Thereafter, Bob began working for a surveying engineering firm and started a bachelor’s degree in construction technology at Purdue University in Hammond. During this time, Bob designed subdivisions and their infrastructure. After completing his bachelor’s, Bob considered continuing his studies and spoke with professors at Purdue who had their master’s degrees. They encouraged him to pursue a master’s in urban and regional planning and connected him with the head of the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) planning department in the school of architecture.
Bob’s studies at IIT began with affordable housing and then delved into the details of laying out houses and buildings and urban and regional interaction. After he received his master’s, Bob was working as the Assistant Engineer in Porter County when the County Commissioners approached him to see if he would be interested in serving as Planning Director for the County. Before they asked Bob, they had no idea that he had his master’s in planning. Bob’s job as Planning Director has allowed him to continue doing some of the technical work he enjoyed as an engineer while also working on larger development issues. Porter County has seen a several large developments such as the Aberdeen mixed-use Planned Unit Development (south of Valparaiso) and the Grand Oaks subdivision. Bob also currently serves as a voting member on the County Redevelopment Commission. Bob enjoys planning because he enjoys helping people and working on good projects to make good things happen in Porter County.