Mentor Match with Elizabeth 'Libby' Tyler, FAICP

Meet Elizabeth "Libby" Tyler, FAICP

Libby Tyler is community development director in the City of Urbana, Illinois, and visiting adjunct lecturer in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, where she teaches local planning, government, and law.

Tyler was chosen by her peers to be a Fellow of AICP. Fellows are honored as model planners who have made significant contributions to planning and society.

What is your most marked characteristic?

I feel like I am always thinking and scheming, strategizing and trying to figure things out. This is probably a useful trait for a planner because we need to adapt to changing circumstances and help translate diverse and various community goals into action.

What do you appreciate most in your colleagues/employees?

I put a high value on the ability to empathize. Understanding where people are coming from is an essential first step to serving the public and to identifying solutions. I also really admire strong commitment in my colleagues, especially to the community and to getting projects completed.

What are you most passionate about?

Well, planning, of course. My passion really arose from a childhood dream of wanting to completely understand how the world outside works and fits together, from storm drains to parks to neighborhoods, etc. I wanted to be able to identify every tree type, building type, historic reference, you name it. Pretty nerdy, I admit.

In addition to planning, all things cultural really nourish me. I love great literature, art, music, and design. And of course, I love to travel — which is just another term for "planner's field trip."

Which living or dead person do you most admire?

I've always admired former Czech President Vaclav Havel for his true democratic spirit and humanistic philosophy and for his use of art as a transformative agent. Within the planning tradition, I admire the beauty and elegance of Frederick Law Olmsted's designs, the creative vision of Paulo Soleri and Bucky Fuller, the neighborhood wisdom of Jane Jacobs, and the ecological systems thinking of Ian McHarg.

What faults do you have the most tolerance for?

I can't be too hard on someone who is just having a good time, and maybe being a little irresponsible in the process. I'll forgive a lot in the offbeat character, especially if they make me laugh.

What advice do you have for aspiring planners?

I think you need to believe in yourself and be prepared to promote yourself and your talents, but at the same time be respectful of those you will learn from and be open to learning more and adapting.

Being a planner is not just about writing great plans and making staff reports, you need to be someone who can make things happen and be able to promote the community as a whole. If you can get a neighborhood inspired to do their own planning and organizing, then you've really succeeded.

What's your motto?

Not sure if I have a motto, but I do have a few sayings. For one thing, "When in doubt, leave it out." This is good for fact-checking staff reports and not offering too much information that can get you in trouble.

Also, I believe in "no sudden movements." Not only does this prevent vertigo, but it gives you a chance to entertain some second thoughts and hopefully avoid mistakes.

Finally, I think a good daily goal for a planner is to always strive to make things a little "less bad" than they would be otherwise. Maybe you've added some landscaping or avoided a traffic circulation issue in a simple site plan review or maybe you've listened patiently to a resident's complaint and offered some ideas. Over time, you can make a huge impact in a community through these many small efforts.

Read more about Libby Tyler's accomplishments by visiting her LinkedIn profile.

March 21, 2017