Interview with Jessica Garrow
What is one trend you are paying attention to right now?
The shift in where people call home. Over the last six months, more people are choosing to leave densely populated urban areas for more rural areas. Two things about this situation are really interesting to me. First, will this exodus from busy cities continue once the Covid-19 pandemic passes. And how will the population influx impact the rural communities and the services needed to support this growth? This trend intersects with my personal life as I live in a rural community. I’m seeing (and enjoying) the new faces in my community but then I put on my planner hat and think about the potential challenges many small towns will face. It’s going to require smart community planning to help these small towns and rural areas avoid significant growing pains.
What drew you to the planning profession?
My mother has served in local government my entire life and watching her work had a significant impact on me. From early on, I knew I had a desire to serve others but didn’t know exactly how I would do it. My path to community planning only became clear when I began writing my college thesis and I found I gravitated toward a topic related to regional collaboration and planning. From there, I started my career in local government as a community planner and quickly realized it was my passion. I love helping communities articulate their visions for their futures and implementing real change, and I have really enjoyed my transition over the past year to the private sector where I can work with communities across the county.
If you had the opportunity to meet one person you haven't met in our industry, who would it be and why?
Mitchell Silver, Commissioner of the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation. What he has done to ensure equitable access to parks and open spaces in New York by making them both available and maintained in every part of the city is incredible. He’s a visionary in this space and there is so much to learn from him.
What topic in our world is impacting your role as a community planner the most right now?
Equitable access to community spaces has always been part of the equation as a planner but it has never been more vital than it is today. All that is happening in our world right now is highlighting the inequities across all aspects of society. I’m committed to doing all I can to ensure that all groups not only have a voice at the table but that those voices are genuinely listened to and incorporated in the planning process. This means finding ways to make the process easy for people already stretched thin with remote work and school to share their opinions. It is ensuring online options are tailored for mobile devices since not all have access to broadband. It’s taking the time to engage community partners and understand all the changes and trends impacting all community members. It’s ensuring our community plans are comprehensive and serve all, not just one particular segment of the population.