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We are pleased to share the past year's successes and look ahead to 2017 and beyond.

It is my great pleasure to introduce myself to you as your new President.

Courtney Kashima, AICP accepts award from TJ Blakeman, AICP

I want to first extend my sincere gratitude to Courtney Kashima, AICP for her dedication and hard work as our President over the past four years. She has propelled our organization in so many new ways, including a renewed focus on our legislative outreach, new and exciting partnerships with the health sector through the Plan4Health initiative, and professionalizing the organization with the hiring of our first Executive Director, Dawn Peters. Courtney has been yet another great leader in a long line of outstanding planners to lead our organization. (photo: 2017 APA-IL President, T.J. Blakeman, AICP recognizes Courtney Kashima, AICP's service to the Chapter, as APA-IL's President since 2013, during the 2016 APA-IL State Conference. photo by i3 events)

As we move into 2017, let's look back on 2016.

2016 Annual Report

The 2016 APA-IL Annual Report is now available. It is a great way to look at our chapter and section accomplishments over the past year. I hope you will not only take a look for yourself, but forward this report to your elected officials, plan commissioners, and local citizen planners that might have an interest in learning about our organization. Spreading the news about our great work is the first step in building awareness of our organization and profession.

I want to offer a few thoughts on the direction I hope to move our organization during my time as your President. First, I believe strongly in this organization and its ability to provide you, the practicing planner, with tools and resources that assist you in your everyday life. I look forward to reaching out to you to better understand how our programs impact you and where we can improve. We must continue to focus on our programming and educational opportunities to ensure that you find lasting value in your Chapter membership. Second, our Chapter’s membership is stable but offers so many opportunities for growth. As we look around our state we see large gaps, particularly in rural communities and urban minority neighborhoods that perhaps cannot afford professional planning help. In these areas, planners take all forms. We need to ensure that we are doing what we can to help them. In the coming months, I’ll be proposing a new membership committee to begin exploring ways we can reach these audiences. Communities need to know we exist and we must be willing to help elected officials, appointed commissioners, and the citizen planners to understand how they can better their communities. I believe our organization can use our vast expertise to reach these new audiences and ensure that all parts of our state are equipped to Make Great Communities. Finally, over the past ten years, we have taken a summer retreat at Starved Rock and turned it into a thriving and growing annual APA-IL State Conference. This growth has always been one of my areas of emphasis and I look forward to helping our board put new processes in place to ensure smoother development and execution of our conferences, as well as introducing new aspects that continue to excite, educate and innovate the way we plan in Illinois. I hope to see you at our 2017 APA-IL State Conference in Naperville on September 13-15, 2017. I look forward to engaging with you over the next three years and hearing your ideas for moving our organization forward. I hope you will consider lending your time and energy to our effort and joining our leadership through our expanding committees. T.J. Blakeman, AICP APA-IL President

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