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June 2020 Member Spotlight: Reema Abi-Akar

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...

Reema Abi-Akar

Tri-County Regional Planning Commission, Planner II

Reema Abi-Akar headshot
Reema Abi-Akar

Tell us a little about yourself.

I never felt I had a true calling, though there were plenty of subjects that interested me. I went into the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) undecided. I ended up writing for the Daily Illini student newspaper all four years and discovering urban planning along the way. I received a Bachelor of Arts degree in planning from UIUC in 2015. Afterwards, I pivoted towards sustainability and earned a Master of Science in Natural Resources and the Environment from the University of Michigan in 2017. All in all, I gained a varied background in writing, planning, and sustainability.

The summer between my graduation from UIUC and the start of my graduate classes at Michigan, I took a short internship at the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission (TCRPC) in my hometown of Peoria. As it turned out, TCRPC had an opening when I was looking for a position after grad school, and I returned to Peoria for that job. I’ve been at Tri-County for just over three years now.

What are some of your current or notable projects?

My master’s project at the University of Michigan focused on recycling and sustainable materials management in Detroit, with connections to Baltimore and Minneapolis. A group of three of us interviewed personnel across the three cities, outlining how policies and social structures helped establish recycling and zero waste initiatives both from the bottom up, and occasionally, the top down, in different instances. Ultimately, we presented our document and recommendations to a Detroit zero waste committee and on a poster at the 2017 New York APA National Conference.

At Tri-County, two of my major projects are human service transit planning and the 2020 Census marketing efforts. As the chair of the Human Service Transportation Plan (HSTP) Region 5 Committee, I oversee the coordination of urban and rural transit and paratransit across a seven-county region, with a focus on the elderly and people with disabilities. As for the 2020 census, Tri-County has spearheaded a region-wide campaign to market the census and show how crucial it is to funding public services, allocating public dollars, and retaining Illinois’ political representation.

How have you been involved with the APA-IL?

I have been a member of both APA and APA-IL since about 2013, when I was an undergraduate student. At the 2019 APA-IL state conference, I presented a Fast, Funny, Passionate talk about Asian Carp in the Illinois River. Last year, I joined the APA-IL Membership Committee, which has continued to thrive during the pandemic.

What is your favorite activity outside of the office?

During non-pandemic times, I normally play roller derby and serve as the treasurer for the Peoria Prowlers Roller Derby team. I have been playing for over two years now, and although practices and games are paused for now, you can still find me roller skating along trails and in parking lots around the Peoria area.


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