APA Board of Directors Biographies



Kurt E. Christiansen, FAICP

Kurt Christiansen is the former economic and community development director for Azusa, California. He is a Fellow of the American Institute of Certified Planners and holds a master's degree from the University of California, Los Angeles, and a bachelor's degree from California State University, Northridge. Christiansen has been an active member of APA serving in various local and national leadership roles including as the Region VI Board director, Chapter Presidents Council vice chair, and president of the APA California Chapter. He also has encouraged new planners by serving as a mentor. Christiansen will serve one year as president-elect, two years as president, and one year as past president. He recently relocated to Richmond, Virginia.

Cynthia Bowen, AICP
Immediate Past President

Cynthia Bowen, FAICP

Cynthia Bowen is the director of planning for Rundell Ernstberger Associates (REA), a national planning, urban design, and land architect firm founded in 1979. An active APA member, Bowen has held a number of leadership positions including president of the APA Indiana Chapter and vice chair and secretary/treasurer of the Chapter Presidents Council. Bowen is a graduate of Ball State University with degrees in urban and regional planning and environmental science and design. Within her community, Bowen has served on many boards and committees.

Wendy E. Moeller, AICP
Secretary, Director Region IV

Wendy E. Moeller, FAICP

Wendy Moeller is principal and owner at Compass Point Planning. Previously, she was senior planner at McBride Dale Clarion. She earned a bachelor's degree in Urban Planning at the University of Cincinnati. In addition to numerous volunteer roles at APA, she served as president of APA's Ohio Chapter. Moeller also served Goshen Township as a zoning commissioner from 2004–2007.

Treasurer, Director Region I

Courtenay D. Mercer, AICP

Courtenay Mercer is serving her second four-year term on the board and is the board's secretary. She is principal of Mercer Planning Association in Jersey City, New Jersey, and formerly served as the director of planning at the NJ Office of Smart Growth. She holds master's and bachelor's degrees from Rutgers University. Within APA, Mercer has served as a member on the Budget and Development Plan Committee, Legislative and Policy Committee, and chair of the Membership Committee. She also previously served as the APA New Jersey Chapter president and as treasurer of the APA Chapter Presidents Council.

Joel Albizo
Chief Executive Officer, APA and AICP

Joel Albizo, FASAE, CAE

Joel Albizo has more than 30 years of association management experience and is seen as an innovator within the association CEO community. In addition to original research and presentations on the competencies and development of future association CEOs, he is attuned to digital transformation and other trends impacting the nonprofit sector. Previously, he served as CEO for the Council of Landscape Architectural Registration Boards (CLARB), a regulatory body that works to protect the public's health, safety, and welfare by establishing licensure standards for the practice of landscape architecture. Albizo earned his bachelor's degree in mass communications at Towson University in Maryland. He is president of the Federation of Associations of Regulatory Boards, and a former board member and treasurer for the American Society of Association Executives.


Rodger Lentz, AICP
Director Region II

Rodger Lentz, AICP

Rodger Lentz is chief planning and development officer in Wilson, North Carolina. His focus includes development and implementation of the award-winning 2030 Comprehensive Plan, center city revitalization, brownfield redevelopment, and alternative transportation. The former APA North Carolina Chapter president, Lentz presently serves on the chapter's legislative committee and on committees of the North Carolina League of Municipalities. He also served on APA's Chapter Presidents Council executive committee. Previously, Lentz worked for Charlotte, Cabarrus County, and Matthews, North Carolina. He is also passionate about improving achievement at low-performing schools through the Hand in Hand Project.

Wendy Shabay, AICP
Director Region III

Wendy D. Shabay, AICP, Assoc AIA

Wendy Shabay is vice president/principal and manager of the Urban Planning + Design group at Freese and Nichols, Inc., an architecture/engineering/planning firm founded in 1894. She works on urban development, comprehensive planning, transit-oriented development, corridor planning, downtown redevelopment, and campus planning. Shabay received a Bachelor of Environmental Design from Texas A&M University, Fightin' Texas Aggie Class of 1993.

Director Region V

Leo Asuncion, Jr., AICP

Leo Asuncion is the director of the Office of Planning for the State of Hawaii. He is a certified planner and holds a MBA from Hawaii Pacific University and master's and bachelor's degrees from the University of Hawaii. Asuncion has served in a number of leadership roles within APA, including on the Chapter Presidents Council and as the APA Hawaii Chapter president. He is a member of Lambda Alpha International, a board member of McKinley High School (Honolulu) Academy of Finance, and current chair of the Coastal States Organization.

Director Region VI

Kristen Asp, AICP

Kristen Asp is the principal planner for the city of Glendale, California. She is a certified planner and earned a master's degree from Woodbury University and a bachelor's degree from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Asp originally became a member of APA as an undergraduate student and served as a student representative for the APA California Chapter. She has also served as the Los Angeles Section director and vice president for administration for the APA California Chapter.

Kara W. Drane, AICP
Director at Large

Kara W. Drane, AICP

Kara Drane is senior planner with Catawba Regional Council of Governments in Rock Hill, South Carolina. Her two decades of experience include former positions as planning director for Forrest County, planning administrator for Hattiesburg, Mississippi, and planning consultant in Mississippi and South Carolina. Following Hurricane Katrina, Drane worked with other agencies to coordinate recovery efforts for Forrest County. She has served as president of APA's Mississippi Chapter and other chapter leadership roles, and has been recognized nationally for her chapter leadership. Currently Drane serves on APA's Legislative and Policy Committee and Membership Committee, and APA South Carolina Chapter Awards Committee. An AICP member since 1995, Drane received her Bachelor of Science in Community and Regional Planning from the University of Southern Mississippi.

Director at Large

Lauren Driscoll, AICP

Lauren Driscoll is the director of Community and Development Services for the City of Salina, Kansas. She is a certified planner and holds a bachelor's degree from Grand Valley State University. Within APA, Driscoll has served as the president of the APA Alaska Chapter, chair of the Leadership Development Committee, chair of the Emerging Issues Committee for the Chapters Presidents Council, and chair of the Communications Committee.

Director at Large, Focused

Marjorie (Marj) Press

Marj Press is a commissioner on the Seattle Planning Commission, currently serving her second term. She holds a master's degree from the George Washington University and a bachelor's degree from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Press has 20-plus years of planning experience primarily managing the environmental analysis of transportation projects. She has served APA in a variety of leadership roles, including as chair of the Divisions Council and advisor to the APA Board of Directors, member of APA's Diversity Task Force, member of APA's Governance Committee, a member of the 2015 National Planning Conference Local Host Committee, and founding member and chair of the LGBTQ and Planning Division. She currently serves on the APA membership committee and the Policy Guide Advocacy workgroup. She was the 2015 recipient of the Division Council's Terry F. Holzheimer, FAICP, Leadership Award. Press is a founding member and co-owner of Terra Plata in Seattle.

Fleming El-Amin, AICP
Director at Large, Focused

Fleming El-Amin, AICP

Fleming El-Amin is project manager at the Baltimore City Department of Transportation. Previously he has served in a number of public sector planning agencies, including as citywide transportation planner in the District Department of Transportation, Washington, D.C, and transportation planner at the City of Raleigh, North Carolina. El-Amin served as APA North Carolina Chapter President and on a number of APA committees and task forces. He received a Master of City and Regional Planning from Morgan State University, and a Bachelor of Arts in Architecture and Geography at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte.

AICP President

Deborah Alaimo Lawlor, FAICP, PP

Debbie Alaimo Lawlor has over 35 years of experience, specializing in land use and environmental planning. She is discipline leader for planning services for Maser Consulting, P.A., where she manages a team of 10 planners. Previously, she worked for the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission. Lawlor has held leadership positions in APA's Regional and Intergovernmental Planning Division and APA's New Jersey Chapter, which honored her in 2009 with its distinguished service award. She holds a BS in environmental planning and design and an MA in geography, both from Rutgers University.

Chapter Presidents Council Chair

Ben Hitchings, FAICP

Ben Hitchings is Principal at Green Heron Planning, LLC, in North Carolina. As the Chapter Presidents Council representative, Hitchings will be responsible for representing APA's 47 local chapter needs to the Board of Directors. He is a certified planner and received his master's degree from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a bachelor's degree from Amherst College. An active association member, Hitchings is the past president of the APA North Carolina Chapter, co-chaired the Student and New Member Task Force, and was vice chair of the Chapter Presidents Council.

Divisions Council Chair

David Fields, AICP

David Fields is a principal at Nelson\Nygaard Consulting Associates in the San Francisco office. As the Divisions Council chair, Fields will lead the Divisions Council in strengthening APA's 21 special-interest divisions. He is a certified planner and earned his master's degree from New York University and bachelor's degree at State University of New York at Binghamton. Within APA, Fields has held both national and local leadership roles, including vice chair of the Divisions Council, chair of the Multi-modal Planning at the Megaregional Scale Research Initiative Project Advisory Committee, chair of APA's Transportation Division, co-chair of the Smart Cities Task Force, and New York City section director of the APA New York Metro Chapter.

Student Representatives Council Chair

Rachael Thompson Panik

Rachael Thompson Panik is an urban planning student at Clemson University, seeking a master's degree in City and Regional Planning with a 2018 anticipated graduation. She earned her bachelor's degree in civil engineering from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Panik currently interns at Toole Design Group, LLC in Spartanburg, South Carolina. As the chair of the Student Representatives Council, Panik will be responsible for guiding the student representatives and connecting with the various university Planning Student Organizations across the country. Within the community, Panik has volunteered with the University of Alabama at Birmingham's Green Initiative Student Organization and Greenville, South Carolina, neighborhood associations.

JAPA Editor

Ann Forsyth

Ann Forsyth is currently Professor of Urban Planning and Director of the Master in Urban Planning degree program at Harvard GSD. Forsyth received her master’s degree in urban planning from the University of California, Los Angeles, and her PhD in city and regional planning from Cornell University. An APA member for more than three decades, Forsyth has been a faculty member of several universities, and has also worked in the private sector as a planning consultant. Several editorial roles, including service on six journal editorial boards, have prepared Forsyth for the editorship of JAPA, the Journal of the American Planning Association.