From Chapter President Jason Gilman

Chapter President Jason Gilman

There’s no doubt we’re living in challenging times but as Albert Einstein stated: “In the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity.”  That is especially true of the work that we do, and it also extends to our personal lives as well.

During the past year, I had the extraordinary opportunity to take a year to provide daycare for twin granddaughters, watching them grow from 3 months to 15 months (a miracle to witness). I also used the time to reflect professionally on my career as well as our shared profession as planners.


What was revealed to me during my time of reflection? You are to be celebrated for your enduring work to overcome difficulties and adversity to make our human environment better. Through the tough night meetings before commissions and boards, to dealing with the intimidating landowner not following zoning compliance, to empathy burn-out; we have all dealt with those things and more as we craft plans that represent the wide array of interests tempered with professional judgement. I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say that planning is among the most dignified and honorable of professions.


The opportunities ahead are abundant for us and by “us” I mean all of us working together, to share information, solutions and failures, to empower one another, to strive to solve society’s greatest needs and to collectively improve our work. 


Good communication is at the heart of this opportunity. This is why APA-WI has hired Leonard & Finco Public Relations, Inc. to help us with member communications. It’s why I want to meet with you in the next two to four years, sort of a “coffee with planners” interview, to discuss affordable housing, climate impacts, infrastructure decay, equity, sustainability, resiliency. I also want to learn about you, creating empathy for one another and sharing thoughts and ideas for each other’s benefit.


We have a long list of critics, from the wonderful writings of Jane Jacobs to the bristling rebukes of James Howard Kunstler. But these are not unconstructive attacks; they are challengers who care as we should.


It is time to question the status quo and solve some of these issues for society. As a State and Local Politics adjunct at UW-La Crosse, I would stress to the students the importance of local municipalities as laboratories for improving policy and the built environment. This is where change will occur and where it will catch on.  We need to reconsider the P-5 partnerships as true partners in accomplishing these solutions, not as adversaries in a zero-sum game looking to transfer risk to each other. We are in an all-hands-on-deck era.


We have exciting, invigorating and passionate work to do, so let’s do it together while taking care of one another and our own mental health during the most difficult times.  Let’s read the great writings of our predecessors and forge ahead in elevating our profession together. Thank you for being a member of APA-WI.  And, if you’re not a member, consider joining us as we continue to do important work for our communities.


- Jason Gilman, AICP