Every month, the APA-IL will turn the spotlight on members who are making an impact in Illinois urban planning and with the APA-IL. These members exemplify the APA-IL's determination to Make Great Communities for All in Illinois!
This month, we talk with...
Jessica Gal, AICP
Assistant City Planner, City of Elmhurst
Tell us a little about yourself.
I am originally from the southside of Chicago and my family moved to the Plainfield area when I was 10. Like many other students, I didn’t learn about a career in planning until I was in college. I attended a Majors & Minors Fair where I met Alice Novak whose preservation work in Plainfield created a personal connection for me. After taking her 101 course, I quickly signed up for other planning courses and then transferred into the planning program during my junior year.
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign - BAUP (2011-2015)
Will County Land Use Department (2016-2019)
Village of Plainfield (2019-2021)
City of Elmhurst (2021-current)
What are some of your current or notable projects?
I’ve been in my current role at Elmhurst for a year now and it’s been interesting to learn the current code while simultaneously trying to update those regulations. Currently, we are working with a consultant to update our Zoning Ordinance which has not been comprehensively updated since 1992! Out of the places that I’ve worked, Elmhurst’s zoning laws have been the most interesting as they're very community-specific. I've really enjoyed this project.
How have you been involved with the APA-IL?
I’ve been part of APA-IL for a few years, however, only recently started to volunteer after Gabby Mattingly invited me to join the Professional Development Committee. In addition to being schoolmates, we had our first planning internship together working for Champaign County (lots of fun memories driving to all corners of Champaign County).
I started volunteering on the Professional Development Committee in 2021 and I'm going to be one of the Committee's Co-Chairs beginning in 2023.
What advice would you give to a new hire entering the field?
Don't be afraid to accept a position that's not your dream job, or one that's even outside of the planning field. I've always been attracted to how planning intersects with other professional fields. I believe most professional experiences have their applicability to urban planning. I still use tips from my customer service positions when interacting with the public and I can't tell you the amount of times that someone who is frustrated appreciates the time I've taken to listen to them. You'd be surprised how much you can bring to the table from a non-planning position.