It was the fall of 2007 in New York City, and I was seven months pregnant with my first daughter. That was my first IDA conference. At the time, I was running a member-based organization in Milwaukee, so the MKE entourage ensured that I never felt completely alone. My emotions at that conference flowed back and forth from great intimidation to pure exhilaration. It is always humbling to realize how little you know about a given subject, and I was basically a baby grinning with naïve eagerness. But I left with new friends and a list of implementable projects, ready to change the world, starting with my little neighborhood.
The funny thing is that I’ve now been in this industry for fifteen years. I’ve moved from Milwaukee to Fresno to Tempe … and still feel like the newbie at the table. Let me be clear, this isn’t me portraying some version of imposter syndrome. No, I have confidence in where I shine, but I’m acutely aware of the vast field and where I have room to grow. There is so much to learn in this dynamic industry. It’s a gift really. We never have to give up the joys of professional growth!
It is an understatement to say that being the Chair of IDA is an honor. For the past fifteen years, I’ve attended all but one conference, countless webinars and many regional events. I’ve had the absolute pleasure of assisting with the Emerging Leader Fellowship (ELF) program, and I’ve served a total of seven years on the board and various committees. But do you want to know what matters most to me? You. The people in this organization are inspiring. You are brilliant. I can’t count the number of mentors I have within the IDA family. You work every day to make a place special. We are all in the business of creating exceptional experiences for people who have chosen to integrate their lives with our places – through working, celebrating, dating, dancing, dining, vacationing and even falling in love. And you care so deeply that it keeps you up at night when the hard work makes you work even harder.
Many people have asked me what I want to accomplish in my two years as Chair, and truthfully I have no agenda separate from IDA’s strategic plan. I’m thrilled by our entry into advocacy and the preparation of a legislative agenda. Our organizations, large and small, will reap the benefits of the collective power of our unified message to elected leaders. Also, I believe we can learn so much from each other to improve the equity of our places and our individual organizations. Many of our places weren’t built with an inclusive mind, and we have reparations to make. And finally, I have seen firsthand, through The Value of U.S. Downtowns and Center Cities and the Top Issues Councils, how imperative our education and research are to this entire industry. But back to the people: I hope to have the opportunity to learn from all of you over these two years. From climate change to serving the unsheltered, drug usage in our downtowns to holiday parades, you take it all on with unwavering strength. You are my people.
So here’s to you. Let’s change the world together – one place at a time!