Welcome to Around the Table, a regular series where we talk to people in our network and share the incredible work they are doing in their industry. Pull up a chair and join us for conversation and connection.
Name: Ann Cundy
Company: Central Shenandoah Planning District Commission (CSPDC)/Harrisonburg Rockingham Metropolitan Planning Organization
Where to Find You: LinkedIn, Email
What drew you to the world of transportation planning?
Becoming a transportation planner was unexpected for me. I was drawn to urban planning from an environmental education and conservation background but took a chance on a job as a transportation planner in Charlottesville, VA while my now-husband stayed there to grow his small business.
I quickly discovered that transportation planning is fast-paced, exciting, and touches everyone. It’s a sphere where state and local government investments have the opportunity to positively impact the environment, address social inequities, improve qualify of life, and support the economy.
What are you proudest of in your work as a transportation planner?
Since I joined CSPDC in 2013, we’ve launched a brand-new MPO, the Staunton-Augusta-Waynesboro MPO, and brought those localities together to collaborate in a way that they hadn’t in the past. We’ve also succeeded in raising the profile of the Harrisonburg-Rockingham MPO, creating a value-add organization and a resource for those jurisdictions. Now they come to us for expertise to translate transportation concepts into projects, and to get those projects funded. Seeing projects that we’ve taken from a concept or issue to a study, to a defined solution, and through implementation to benefit the community is tremendously rewarding.
You’ll be presenting with Avid Core’s Ashley Dobson at the MetroQuest Conference for Virtual Public Engagement for Transportation Planning and at the Association for Metropolitan Planning Organizations Annual Conference. What do you hope people take away from your sessions?
I hope they are inspired by what we’ve been able to accomplish with a small staff and a modest budget! We committed a lot of our time and energy to implementing this robust public engagement and communications plan the Avid Core designed for us, and it has paid off!
What do you think is the biggest challenge your field is facing today?
Urban planners seem to be in short supply these days and, like a lot of other industries, many long-time planners are retiring or nearing retirement. It’s not a career path that I knew existed until my senior year of college. We need to do more with younger students to raise awareness of the field and how rewarding the work can be.
What’s the best advice you’ve received in your career?
A retiring planner once told me, “If you’re not ticking someone off, you’re not working hard enough!” I’m not sure that’s advice I would give someone, but I think the nugget of truth there is that it’s important to stand up for what’s right, even when faced with skepticism or push back. The beauty of being a planner is marshalling data and research to shift the needle for decisionmakers about what they can do to create great communities.
When you aren’t working, what do you like to do?
I stay pretty busy parenting our kids (ages 11 and 8), but my personal happy place is on my road bike in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley where we live.
If we were literally “around the table” right now, what food would you have brought to share?
I love a good savory dip, and Ina Garten’s Israeli Vegetable Salad is my current favorite. Or pimento cheese! Can’t go wrong there.