Politics & Policy

Best and Brightest: Meet the 2010 Vanguard

Young leaders from 20 states will convene in Philadelphia photo by cjelli

Each year Next American City chooses more than 30 outstanding young leaders from around the country to join together for a two-day conference. Called Next American Vanguard, the group and the conference are dedicated to understanding American cities and strategizing ways of improving them. The class of 2010 represents fields ranging from arts to transportation to climate change and historic preservation. Coming from 20 different states, the group reflects the diversity of American cities and the challenges and opportunities facing them. This year’s class will be joined by 10 members of last year’s Vanguard, adding to the expertise and network of this group.

Michael Allen
St. Louis, MO
In August 2009, Michael founded the Preservation Research Office, a historic preservation services firm. Prior to this, Allen served as assistant director of Landmarks Association of St. Louis. Allen writes a blog on historic preservation issues, Ecology of Absence, and serves on the St. Louis Post-Dispatch Community Advisory Board.

Emma Berndt
Chicago, IL
Emma works with cities to help them reduce greenhouse gas emissions as an energy efficiency finance manager with the Clinton Climate Initiative at the William J. Clinton Foundation. She holds an A.B. in History from Harvard College and an MSc in Urban Planning from the London School of Economics.

Sean Brown
Camden, NJ
Sean is a Master’s student at Rutgers-Camden. He is the founder of Young Urban Leaders, an organization whose mission is to empower young people to be effective leaders that address the most crucial issues facing their communities through training, service projects, and a support network. He has devoted his life to community service in Camden, is the son of a public school teacher and was recently appointed to the school board.

Sam Butler
Detroit, MI
Sam is the executive director of a community development corporation, whose mission centers on neighborhood revitalization and environmental justice. Sam is working to reform the community development industry and create a process for shrinking Detroit. He would like to make Detroit an international model for vacant land re-use and participatory planning.

Megan Canning
New York, NY
Megan is the deputy director of the Design Trust for Public Space, has been working to improve New York City’s public realm for over five years. Originally from Ohio, she is a visual artist and holds a Masters Degree in Painting from Hunter College.

Marvin Chaney
Austin, TX
Marvin graduated from Cornell University and currently works for the State of Texas. He always wanted to be a public servant and views his role as a means to connect with his community, allowing him to offer solutions and expertise to address concerns of fellow citizens.

Amy Cheung
Boston, MA
Raised in Quincy, Massachusetts, a twilight zone between suburb and city south of Boston, Amy is fascinated by where cities start and end. In Boston’s Chinatown, she launched A-VOYCE, a youth radio and storytelling program, and managed the Storefront Library, which converted vacant storefront space into a temporary, Chinese/English bilingual lending library.

Andrew Dahl
Minneapolis, MN
Andrew is a small town Wisconsinite living in urban Minnesota. During the day, he works for the City of Minneapolis, keeping the city’s neighborhoods and economy vibrant. Outside the office he’s busy volunteering with his neighborhood association, fixing up his old house, growing trees, and trying not to fall off his bike.

Kevin Donoghue
Portland, ME
Kevin is a member of the City Council in Portland, Maine, where has served as a member of the Housing Committee, as chair of the Transportation Committee, as a director of the island ferry system, and as the president of the regional bus system. Kevin has worked to strengthen community planning and public transit. He lives with his wife, Krista, and their daughter, Rosaleen.

Katie Drennan
Washington, DC
Katie is a native Oregonian, graduate of Smith College, and current Washington, D.C. resident. She began her career as a Congressional staffer for Congressman Earl Blumenauer where she worked on issues ranging from education to housing and livability. She currently works for Transportation For America, a non-profit coalition advocating for a cleaner, greener, more equitable federal transportation bill.

Kristi Wamstad-Evans
Omaha, NE
Kristi Wamstad-Evans, LEED-AP, became Omaha’s first sustainability coordinator in September 2009. She spearheads the city’s $4.3M energy efficiency/conservation program and recently secured a $10M grant to retrofit whole neighborhoods. Kristi and her husband Brendan joyfully fill their lives with two energetic kids, three big dogs, and an extremely tolerant cat.

Ana Teresa Fernandez
Sherman Oaks, CA
Ana is a leader of education reform in Los Angeles for 10 years. At 23, Ana ran for LAUSD School Board and received many endorsements, including the Los Angeles Times and LA Weekly. Currently, Ana is the special assistant of strategic initiatives for LAUSD Superintendent Ramon Cortines.

Jessica Garz
New Orleans, LA
Jessica serves as the program manager for Transforma, a collective of artists and creative professionals formed after Hurricane Katrina to support creative practices that impact the social and physical environment in the New Orleans region. Garz also conducts research for the Urban Institute, under the advisement of Maria Rosario Jackson, on how arts and cultural influence the health of communities throughout the country. She is also working as the interim project director on the Multi-Tenant Arts Facility project for the National Performance Network.

Gary Gaston
Nashville, TN
Gary is the design director of the Nashville Civic Design Center and a Lecturer at the University of Tennessee College of Architecture and Design. He was a principal contributor to the Center’s book The Plan of Nashville: Avenues to a Great City, published by Vanderbilt University Press in 2005.

Abby Hall
Washington, DC
Abby is a policy analyst in EPA’s Smart Growth Program, focusing on state and local policy research and technical assistance. Abby manages the Smart Growth Implementation Assistance Program, supports EPA’s climate change adaptation work, and engages in federal partnerships with HUD, DOT and FEMA.

Bethany Henderson
San Francisco, CA
Bethany is the founder and executive director of City Hall Fellows, the only non-partisan national service corps that gets smart young people working in city government right out of college. A litigator by training, Bethany is a 2009 Echoing Green Fellow and a 2010 New Leaders Council Fellow.

William Herbig
Washington, D.C.
Recognized for his creative imagination and technical know-how, William Herbig, AICP, joined the National Capital Planning Commission in 2009. He is the first urban planner to serve the agency’s Office of Public Affairs. Previously, he was director of urban design at Atlanta’s Midtown Alliance. He holds a Masters degree from the Georgia Institute of Technology and attended the Savannah College of Art and Design.

Phil Kidd
Youngstown, OH
Phil Kidd is the founder of Defend Youngstown, a promotional and volunteer-based movement in the city of Youngstown, OH. He also serves as a community organizer with the Mahoning Valley Organizing Collaborative where he works with 17 neighborhood groups and leads the city’s Neighborhood Stabilization Organizing Campaign. Phil also serves as co-organizer of the Cleveland-Youngstown-Pittsburgh Regional Network.

Laura Kushnick
Cleveland, OH
Laura Kushnick is the development and community relations manager at Downtown Cleveland Alliance. She holds degrees from Wesleyan University and NYU in art and art education and is intrigued by the intersection between urban revitalization and the arts. Having returned to Cleveland in 2007, she is proud to play a role in the resurgence of her hometown.

Nikki Lowy
San Francisco, CA
Nikki, a San Francisco native, is currently the director of the Urban Land Institute San Francisco District Council, a non-profit education and research organization with over 30,000 members worldwide. As a LEED AP, Nikki fulfills ULI’s mission to provide leadership in the responsible use of land by overseeing 80 educational programs annually. Nikki is a current participant in Leadership San Francisco, an invitation-only program sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce to train future local leaders.

Rory Neuner
Lansing, MI
Rory Neuner is a livable communities advocate based in Lansing, Michigan. By day she manages transportation and health policy initiatives for the Safe Routes to School National Partnership. By
night, she gives her time to several organizations working to make the Greater Lansing, Michigan region more sustainable, vibrant, and entrepreneurial.

Nebahat Noyan
Washington, D.C.
Neba is the Director of Innovation and Applications at a DC-based non-profit organization that promotes investment in inner-city neighborhoods. Her specialty is neighborhood revitalization, data visualization and spatial statistics. She is a native of Turkey and she holds a PhD from Rutgers University with a dissertation focus in Transportation/Urban Planning.

Karen Beck Pooley
Allentown, PA
Karen Beck Pooley has a Ph.D. in City Planning from the University of Pennsylvania. Her research there focused on neighborhood revitalization strategies, measuring housing market strength, and the evolution housing policy. Karen is the executive director of Allentown’s Redevelopment Authority and an Associate at czbLLC, an urban planning consulting firm. 



David Rand
Chicago, IL
As Farm Forager, David’s job is to find new, local farmers from the Midwest region to sell their products at our Farmers Markets. He works exclusively with small family farms that have an emphasis in sustainability, helping them to find other sources of direct sales within the city as well, such as restaurants and institutions.

Dominic Robinson
Syracuse, NY
Dominic does neighborhood revitalization work on the Northside of Syracuse, New York. He founded a grassroots organization and works with a neighborhood hospital and regional business organization (The Metropolitan Development Association) to catalyze development. Dominic has spearheaded initiatives related to workforce and commercial development, youth programming, public art, and green space.

Taryn Roch
Chicago, IL
From San’a, Yemen to the South Bronx, Taryn dedicates her career to connecting disadvantaged populations to opportunity. She led the development of a project-based charter school, revitalized disinvested commercial districts, and conducted feasibility studies for social enterprises. Taryn works at Metro Chicago Information Center where she manages research-based community development projects.

Nathan Roman
Tempe, AZ
Possessing a passion for academia and serving high school youth, Nathan resides in Phoenix, Arizona working for Aguila Youth Leadership Institute assisting students throughout the Valley in helping them reach their dreams of obtaining a university education. He also loves long walks across the desert.

Emily Sadigh
Berkeley, CA
Emily designs approaches for the public sector and universities to advance the transition to a green economy. As a sustainability coordinator for one of California’s largest counties, independent consultant, and board member of Young Women Social Entrepreneurs, she enjoys connecting innovators to partners and resources. She holds a B.A. and M.Ed. from Harvard University.

Anne Schwieger
Philadelphia, PA
Anne is a city planner working at the intersection of university, community, and public school through the University of Pennsylvania’s Netter Center for Community Partnerships. Anne holds an MCP from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (‘08) and a BA in Biology and Society from Cornell University (‘05).

Karis Thompson
Fargo, ND
Karis is currently organizing The Project F-M, a year-long venture to bridge social capital and distill vision for a 21st century faith community able to engage the breadth of changing identities in Fargo, ND. Previously, she worked with a holistic Northside nonprofit in Minneapolis, MN, and lived in South Korea for two years via a Fulbright teaching grant.

Zoe Towns
New York, N.Y.
Zoe is the director of The Bronx Freedom Fund, a nonprofit that works to release defendants held on criminal or immigrant bail. She graduated from Columbia University with a degree in Ethnic Studies and Creative Writing. As a Mellon Mays fellow at Columbia, she conducted research on immigrant rights.

Bethany Wilcoxon
Des Moines, IA
A graduate of Iowa State University, Bethany is an associate transportation planner at the Des Moines Area Metropolitan Planning Organization. She was drawn to the planning profession because she believes that planning is a fundamental tool in facing some of society’s biggest challenges.

James Wright
Philadelphia, PA
James is a West Philadelphia native and presently resides there with his wife and three children. He works to realize the potential of the Lancaster Avenue business corridor; understanding that a number of conditions led to its decline and only a dynamic/multifaceted effort will bring about its revitalization.

Tags: culture, philadelphia, east coast, built environment, governance, transportation, west coast, midwest, south, central