top of page

Cheers to a successful 2018 APA-IL State Conference!

2018 brought our annual State Conference to Springfield, Illinois. While the APA-IL Illinois State Section has held their spring conference in Springfield, this was the first time the Chapter has held our annual conference in Springfield. It seems a perfect match given that 2018 is Illinois’ bicentennial and the APA-IL’s 40th anniversary! We hope you enjoyed this new and notable conference as you earned your piece of the CMs offered. Please visit the 2018 APA-IL State Conference webpage for videos and more photos!

When conference planning begins, one of the first things the Chapter tackles is naming a conference chair. When Drew Awsumb, AICP, Deputy Director of Community Development for the City of Highland Park, was suggested, there was no doubt he would be perfect for the role. As a native “Springfieldian”, Chicago transplant, urban planner, and overall nice guy we knew he could elevate the conference to a new level while tackling the logistics of a new location. Thank you Drew, for the countless hours of volunteer time you dedicated to the conference and our members.

Another important, early decision that had to be made was regarding our conference keynote speaker. We wanted to make an impact with our choice and we felt that Carol Ross Barney, Ross Barney Architects, would check all the boxes for the type of person and content that we wanted for our members. Carol was able to not only talk about the project she is most well-known for, the Chicago Riverwalk, but took a deep dive into “How do We Live in Cities?” She feels strongly that we need to learn how to successfully live in cities if we want to succeed as a species. “Over 50% of of world’s population lives in cities. The good news is that 80% of the world’s GDP is made in cities. It shows how important cities are today. They are the energy centers. The knowledge centers. They are the centers of diversity in our world. This is where the answers will be.” A recording of Carol’s full keynote speech is available on our website.

While a dynamic conference chair and keynote speaker can make an impact on a conference, we decided we were not going to stop there. We were going to push the conference a little further and develop several *new* conference experiences:

We kicked off #APAIL18 in a unique way - on a train! Our Amtrak Mobile Workshop allowed attendees to board a reserved train car in Chicago, Joliet, or Normal and comfortably travel to Springfield WHILE earning 3 CM credits! That’s right, we had 3 transportation related mobile workshops that were held while the train was rolling down the tracks toward Springfield! This unique way of commuting to a conference and earning CM was very well received by our attendees. Thank you to our “APA-IL Conductor”, Christina Bader, AICP, CTA and our 3 speakers Stacey Meekins, AICP, Sam Schwartz Engineering, Jamie Simone, AICP, IDOT, and Gina Trimarco, AICP, TranSystems.

For the first time, we decided to include a Thursday Plenary Speaker in our conference line-up and invited Randy Blakenhorn, Illinois Transportation Secretary, to the conference. Randy flipped a typical plenary on it’s head. Attendees enjoyed a Q&A session before he started his presentation. After many questions from the audience, ranging from Rte 53 development to funding to freight issues to customer service, he emphasized the need to find a way for engineers and planners to work together. Thank you, Randy, for a fun and informative plenary.

A recent, unique development in Springfield, the Bicentennial Plaza, was brought to our attention by local landscape architect Kent Massie, Massie Massie + Associates. Thanks to Kent, we were able to hold, for the first time ever, a night time Moonlight Walking Tour and VIP Light Show - all for free in honor of the APA-IL’s 40th Anniversary!! As planners, we all like to have a little fun outside of conference room walls and tour buses while at conferences. Attendees met at Obed & Issac’s for some food, drinks and networking then made their way across the street to the new Bicentennial Plaza. Attendees were able enjoy a short light show followed by a moonlit walking tour of downtown landmarks. Even Springfield Mayor Jim Langfelder was able to join us. Fun stories were heard about the capital city and its iconic buildings and fantastic photographs were snagged along the way!

While many firsts were had, the conference remained true to what brings planners back each year - our incredible speakers and session topics that show the breadth of our profession. We’ll also be honest here, it’s about the CM too. Thank you to the many speakers and most of all, Marcy Knysz, AICP, Manhard Consulting, and Charlotte O'Donnell Obodzinski, AICP, Pace Bus, for once again spearheading the Programming Committee. A big thanks also goes out to Drew Awsumb, AICP and Jess Weitzel, LISC for organizing the mobile workshops. Our traditional offerings included:

The Awards Program - Each year we bring together the best planning in Illinois and this year was no exception. After a brief State of the Chapter by APA-IL President TJ Blakeman, AICP, we recognized 2018 project award winners and then announced our service award winners. Congratulations to all! After the fanfare, everyone adjourned to the Exhibitor Hall for hors d'oeuvres, drinks,and networking. Thank you to our Awards Chair, Christina Bader, AICP, CTA, for an eloquently honoring everyone and another well executed ceremony! The 2018 Awards Ceremony recording is available at

The Speed Planning - Thank you to Jaemi Jackson, AICP, City of Highland Park, for another well-executed ballet of planners, tables and topics. Everyone was able to cram a tremendous amount of information on a variety of topics in a short amount of time. Thanks to our presenters!

The Law Session, APA-IL’s Excellent Planning Law Adventure! - You know what they say… when in Springfield, do what any planner would do and hold your law session at the Illinois State Capitol! The dynamic Ancel Glink team of Dan Bolin, Greg Jones, and David Silverman, AICP along with their trusty PDO side-kick Trevor Dick, AICP once again were able to amuse and educate fellow planners while making the process of obtaining law CM a little less painful. As we were sitting in the beautiful Illinois House of Representatives room, one attendee remarked “Can you believe we get CM credits for this?” “Possibly the best planning law session in the nation.” quipped one attendee after the session. The APA-IL would like to give a special thanks to our very special guest at this session, Babe-raham Lincoln. You look great for someone who’s 209.

The Plan Commissioner Training - Michael Blue, FAICP and Laurie Marston, FAICP have held almost 100 training sessions with plan commissioners throughout the state. Each year, they set aside time to make the training session at our state conference a little special by including just a little extra. In this case, the extra was an afternoon mock hearing open to all attendees. As Michael Blue noted in the morning session, in the beginning, plan commissioners are “normally shown your chair and they say good luck. Then you’re confronted with angry people at the podium.” This training offers the ability for commissioners obtain the knowledge they need to make the decisions that create great communities. They learn a lot from our trainers but also from each other. Attendees at the conference ranged from 1-15 years experience, from committee member to chairman. For some, they have attended our training in the past and wanted to go through the training again as a refresher or to have new questions answered. With the addition of an afternoon mock hearing open to all attendees, it boosted the quality and amount of knowledge shared by commissioners, lawyers, and planners alike. Thank you Michael and Laurie as well as the mock hearing lawyers David Silverman, AICP and Greg Jones from Ancel Glink.

The Ethics Case of the Year - If you’ve attended this interactive Q&A session, you’d ask #WWJD - What Would Jim Do? Thank you Lee Brown, FAICP, Teska Associates, and APA Ethics Officer Jim Peters, FAICP for posing difficult, and complicated, ethical questions to Friday’s attendees. Just remember, Lee holds the microphone and therefore holds control of the audience!

The AICP Exam Training - #fullhouse! There wasn't an empty seat in the room for this year's AICP Exam Training, generously held by John Houseal, AICP and Trevor Dick, AICP. Once again, the APA-IL was able to offer this valuable, half-day session for free. Good luck to all those that are taking the exam - may the odds forever be in your favor!

Our last round of conference thank yous go to some of the “behind-the-scenes” folks that put the cherry on top of all that we do at APA-IL.

A shout out to our great group of volunteers that generously gave their time and took pictures during sessions. We could not have done the conference without you! Glen Cole, Village of Lake Bluff, rounded-up and organized our volunteers and encouraged them to make your time in Springfield just a little smoother. Glen also generously helped on the Amtrak Mobile Workshop and wherever an extra hand was needed.

Marketing guru Erin Cigliano, AICP, Teska Associates, had fun dressing up Abe in funny clothes and churning out marketing material that was fun to read even if you were not planning on attending the conference. Thank you for sharing your creativity, Erin.

Trevor Dick, AICP, APA-IL Professional Development Officer extraordinaire, City of Aurora, once again helped to bring a vision to reality. Trevor has had a hand in our state conferences for a while now and every year he's always looking for ways to improve what the conference is and how we do it. Thank you for serving APA-IL members, Trevor, you're awesome.

Thank you to I3 Events, Keith and Neela Johnston. The APA-IL appreciates all that you put into our conferences and we were happy to work with you to produce another great conference this year. We’re already missing our weekly conference calls!

Finally, the APA-IL would like to thank the many exhibitors, speakers and sponsors who helped make this Conference a success. While some sponsors were new, most were longtime advocates of the Chapter. The entire Chapter Executive Committee appreciates your continued support. It’s important to stress that sponsorships not only help support the annual conference, but also support other Chapter activities and programs that occur throughout the year.

We look forward to taking the show on the road (19 miles north of Chicago on the shore of Lake Michigan to be exact) for the 2019 State Conference, back to the Hilton Evanston Orrington in Evanston, IL!

“Whatever you are, be a good one.” - Abraham Lincoln... these seven words succinctly embody what APA-IL is all about… coming together, to learn together, to plan better, to make life, and living,… better for all. When broken down, it’s the little steps of what we do -- the day- to- day, ins- and- outs -- that together make for BIG strides. So whether you’re a planner, designer, architect, engineer, ecologist, lawyer or economist… whatever you are, be a good one! On behalf of APA-IL, we thank you for joining us in Springfield.

bottom of page