Our Staff

Geoffrey Anderson is the President and CEO of Smart Growth America. Recently named by Partnership for Sustainable Communities as “One of the 100 Most Influential Leaders in Sustainable Community Planning and Development,” Geoff came to his current position after eight years heading the Smart Growth Program at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Geoff is a leader in the smart growth movement, and one of the authors of the foundational ten smart growth principles. With an extensive list of publications, Geoff has served as an expert witness in front of the U.S. Congress, has been interviewed and cited by the New York Times, Newsweek, the Washington Post, Fox News, NPR, and numerous other outlets and publications. As a regular conference speaker, Geoff has provided assistance to numerous communities across the country including in-depth work in Cheyenne, WY, Prince George’s County, MD, and the flagship smart growth project Atlantic Station in Atlanta, GA. Geoff received his master’s degree from Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment with a concentration in Resource Economics and Policy.


Ilana Preuss is Chief of Staff at Smart Growth America. Previously, Ilana was Outreach Director for the Transportation for America Campaign – a broad, diverse and unprecedented coalition advocating for a national vision for a 21st century transportation system. In this role, Ilana led organizing for the nationally comprehensive political campaign. She was responsible for recruiting a wide diversity of partners from the business community, elected leaders and non-profits for the campaign to reform national transportation policy. Ilana joined the Transportation for America Campaign after seven years in the smart growth division at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, most recently as director of the acclaimed technical assistance program. In that position, she worked with local officials, development and design practitioners and many others to assist communities in transportation planning, transit-oriented development, downtown and suburban redevelopment, zoning reform and other efforts. As a key player in the division, she co-authored publications such as Density in Your Community and many strategies for local engagement on smart growth. Throughout her years at the EPA, she contributed to numerous publications and events designed to build the knowledge base for smart growth. Previous to working at the EPA, Ilana worked as a Master Plan consultant and at an environmental advocacy NGO in Israel. Ilana received a Master’s Degree from the University of Maryland in environmental planning and a Bachelor’s degree from Cornell University in City Planning. Ilana can be reached at ipreuss [at] smartgrowthamerica [dot] org.

Communications

Alex Dodds is Smart Growth America’s Deputy Director of Communications. She joins the team after several years in campaign communications, most recently running online communications and media outreach for a campaign at Change to Win, a labor federation. She previously served as Publications and Online Editor at Wal-Mart Watch, where she first learned about smart development strategies. Alex graduated from Smith College with a degree in American Studies and Graphic Arts. She can be reached at adodds [at] smartgrowthamerica [dot] org.

Government Affairs and Outreach

Katy Hartnett is Smart Growth America’s Director of Government Affairs and Outreach. She joins SGA after working on Capitol Hill for more than six years, most recently as the Legislative Director for Congressman Russ Carnahan. She also oversaw Congressman Carnahan’s work on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, where she promoted policies that would provide greater access to mass transit. Katy can be reached at khartnett [at] smartgrowthamerica [dot] org.


Christopher A. Coes is the Managing Director for LOCUS, a network of real estate developers and investors who advocate for sustainable, walkable development. He works with real estate developers and investors across the country to advance LOCUS’ public policy agenda and business opportunities. Prior to joining LOCUS, Christopher served as a Consultant for Government Affairs and Campaigns at M+R Strategic Services. As a consultant, Christopher worked with various clients including Transportation for America – a broad, diverse and unprecedented coalition advocating for a national vision for a 21st century transportation system. For nearly three years, Christopher served as Transportation for America’s Senior Campaign Advisor and Deputy Director, where he was responsible for the day to day operations and advising the Campaign on its legislative and political strategies. In addition to his work on transportation issues, Christopher brings over five years of experience in government relations, political advocacy and electoral campaigns. Christopher received a BA/MA in Government and Politics from St. John’s University, specializing in Public Administration and International Relations. Christopher can be reached at ccoes [at] smartgrowthamerica [dot] org.


Jessica Holmberg is Smart Growth America’s Outreach Associate. She works on advocacy, coalition building and the development of Smart Growth America’s Sustainable Communities Network. She is a graduate of Syracuse University’s College of Environmental Science & Forestry with a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies. She joined the staff in July 2009. Jessica can be reached at jholmberg [at] smartgrowthamerica [dot] org.


Jeri Mintzer is Smart Growth America’s Government Affairs Associate. She joined the organization in 2011 as a Fellow, and now works on advocacy and community management for the Sustainable Communities Learning Network. Jeri graduated from the College of Charleston with a degree in Urban Studies and Historic Preservation & Community Planning. Jeri can be reached at jmintzer [at] smartgrowthamerica [dot] org.


Zach Smith is a Program Associate at Smart Growth America. He joined Smart Growth America as a fellow in June 2011 and currently works on advocacy, coalition building, and member outreach for LOCUS: Responsible Real Estate Developers and Investors. He graduated from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a degree in Economics and Urban Studies. Zach can be reached at zsmith [at] smartgrowthamerica [dot] org.

National Complete Streets Coalition

Stefanie Seskin is the Deputy Director of the National Complete Streets Coalition at Smart Growth America. She oversees and implements the Coalition’s programmatic and technical assistance efforts and helps advocates, practitioners, and elected officials as they develop and implement Complete Streets policies and practices. She has researched and developed many resources that power the Complete Streets movement nationally, including a Complete Streets implementation tool kit; Complete Streets Local Policy Workbook; the annual Complete Streets policy reports; Complete Streets: Best Policy & Implementation Practices; workshop course materials; and fact sheets. In 2012, Stefanie was named Young Professional of the Year by the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals. She holds a Masters of Urban Planning and Policy from the University of Illinois at Chicago and a BA in Political Science from Vassar College. She can be reached at sseskin [at] completestreets [dot] org.


Laura Searfoss is a Policy Associate who joined Smart Growth America in 2012. As part of National Complete Streets Coalition, her work focuses on building a stronger network of public, private, and nonprofit organizations concerned about safer, more equitable transportation choices. Most recently, she served as a neighborhood-level planner in Greenville, North Carolina, building capacity among local residents through the city’s Neighborhood Advisory Board. Previously, Laura worked as a magazine editor and conducted research for two national housing organizations—all in Washington, DC. She holds a BA in English and political science from James Madison University and an MUP from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Laura can be reached at lsearfoss [at] completestreets [dot] org.

Smart Growth America’s Leadership Institute

Gov. Parris N. Glendening is President of Smart Growth America’s Leadership Institute and the Governor’s Institute on Community Design. In these roles, he travels across the country and around the world advising state and local governments on smart growth, transit, and sustainability policies and practices. Parris Glendening served as Governor of the State of Maryland from 1995-2003 where he created the nation’s first state-level smart growth policy package. Prior to being elected Governor, Glendening served three terms as elected county executive of Prince George’s County, Maryland. He taught political science at the University of Maryland, College Park for 27 years and is the author of two books and over 100 articles and conference papers.

Glendening has received numerous awards and recognitions. He most recently was named as an Honorary Member of the American Institute of Architects. In addition, Governor Glendening serves on a number of non-profit boards and acts as Senior Advisor for Energy and the Environment for National Strategies, Inc.

Born in New York and raised in Florida, Governor Glendening holds a doctorate degree in Government and Politics from Florida State University as well as eight honorary degrees. He lives in Annapolis with his wife Jennifer and their eight-year-old daughter Bri. His son Raymond, a graduate of West Virginia University, previously was the Political Director of the Democratic Governors Association and is now the Co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer of Ruckus, a communications company. Governor Glendening’s full bio can be downloaded here.


Roger Millar is Vice President & Director of Smart Growth America’s Leadership Institute, which provides technical assistance programs for state and local government, and Director of the National Complete Streets Coalition. Roger has held leadership positions in the public and private sectors, most recently as Director of the Missoula, Montana Office of Planning and Grants. Projects in which Roger played a leadership role, particularly the development of Portland, Oregon’s Pearl District and the Portland Streetcar, are seen as national models. He has also managed or participated in signature projects for rural, resort and gateway communities throughout the American West.

Roger is a Fellow of the American Society of Civil Engineers, a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners and a Certified Floodplain Manager. He is a member of the ASCE Committee for America’s Infrastructure, which produces the Report Card for America’s Infrastructure. He is also Past President of the Oregon Section of ASCE and of the Montana Association of Planners. He graduated from the University of Virginia in 1982. Roger can be reached at rmillar [at] smartgrowthamerica [dot] org.

Policy Development & Implementation

Christopher Zimmerman is Smart Growth America’s Vice President for Economic Development, and Director of the Governors’ Institute on Community Design. Much of his work focuses on the economic and fiscal impact of development policies on localities and regions. Prior to joining Smart Growth America, for two decades Chris was heavily involved in planning, development, and transportation policy in Arlington County, VA and the greater Washington, DC region. This included work as a neighborhood and civic leader, as a planning commissioner, 18 years as a member of the Arlington County Board, and 13 years on the Board of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, as well as other regional transportation agencies. Prior to his service as an elected official, Mr. Zimmerman was Chief Economist at the National Conference of State Legislatures. He holds a Master of Arts in Economics from the University of Maryland and a Bachelor of Science in Political Science and Economics from The American University. Christopher can be reached at czimmerman [at] smartgrowthamerica [dot] org.


Sarah Absetz is an Associate on the Policy Development and Implementation team who joined Smart Growth America as a fellow in April 2012. She currently works on the Local Leaders Council, including on that program’s Maryland Chapter. Additionally, she provides executive support to Governor Parris Glendening. She holds a BS in Natural Resource Management and an MA in Urban Affairs and Public Policy from the University of Delaware. Sarah can be reached at sabsetz [at] smartgrowthamerica [dot] org.


Rayla Bellis is an Associate on the Policy Development & Implementation team at Smart Growth America. She joined the organization as a fellow in 2009, and now works on a number of SGA’s research and technical assistance initiatives with a policy focus on transportation and brownfields redevelopment. She graduated from Knox College with a bachelors degree in Economics and Anthropology/Sociology. Rayla can be reached at rbellis [at] smartgrowthamerica [dot] org.


Neha Bhatt is Deputy Director of Policy Development & Implementation for Smart Growth America. Through advocacy and while working within government, Neha’s career has involved a mix of policy development and campaign management. Before joining SGA, Neha served as the Executive Director of the National Association of City Transportation Officials, where she organized best practices and policies workshops and lobbied on the federal transportation bill on behalf of city departments of transportation. Neha gained direct legislative experience while working as policy advisor to the Ward 6 City Councilmember in the District of Columbia. Highlights of that work included launching the city’s first car free day, implementation of a new market-priced parking pilot program, passage of new substantive storm water mitigation standards for the Anacostia Waterfront development zone and passage of new bike parking requirements for residential and commercial buildings. For almost five years, Neha served the Sierra Club’s Challenge to Sprawl Campaign. This work included congressional outreach, media outreach, lending expertise to local level smart growth campaigns around the nation, providing trainings and producing national reports. While earning her Master’s degree in Community Planning from the University of Maryland, Neha completed fellowships in the planning departments of Washington D.C. and Arlington, VA. She also joined an urban planning team and traveled to St. Petersburg, Russia to evaluate a brownfield site and develop recommendations for redevelopment. Neha holds a Bachelor’s degree in Biology from the College of New Jersey. Neha can be reached at nbhatt [at] smartgrowthamerica [dot] org.


Shelly Hazle serves as Deputy Director of Policy Development & Implementation for Smart Growth America. Prior to joining SGALI in 2006, she worked in public relations and marketing for organizations in a variety of industries, including aviation and health care. Previously, Shelly worked in the federal government as a public information officer for the National Transportation Safety Board. She has B.A.s from Vanderbilt University and is currently completing her M.P.A. at the College of Charleston. Shelly can be reached at shazle [at] smartgrowthamerica [dot] org.


Masumi Kikkawa is an Associate on the Policy Development & Implementation team at Smart Growth America. She joined Smart Growth America as a fellow in January 2011 and currently works on the Governors’ Institute on Community Design as well as other technical assistance projects for state governments. Masumi can be reached at mkikkawa [at] smartgrowthamerica [dot] org.


Elizabeth Schilling is Smart Growth America’s Senior Policy Manager who focuses on how growth and development patterns shape quality of life and how public policies shape growth and development patterns. Ms. Schilling’s approach to creating more livable communities has been shaped by work for the private sector, non-profit sector and for the public sector at all levels of government. She served as the Public Information Officer to Maryland’s Secretary of Planning under Governor Parris N. Glendening and as a Legislative Aide to Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D, OR-3). At Smart Growth America, Elizabeth is managing a project to identify opportunities to align state land use and source water protection policies. She recently helped to develop the U.S. Green Building Council’s rating system for neighborhoods. From 2002 to 2005, she served as the Executive Director of the Growth Management Leadership Alliance, a national network of three-dozen smart growth advocacy organizations in thirty states and British Columbia, Canada. Elizabeth holds a Master’s degree in Public Policy from the Kennedy School of Government and a Bachelor of Science in Social Anthropology from Harvard College. Elizabeth can be reached at eschilling [at] smartgrowthamerica [dot] org.

Operations and Administration

Paula Offord is Smart Growth America’s Director of Operations. Paula has over fifteen years of experience in the areas of office management, executive assistance and customer service. She handles the day-to-day office operations, human resources and acts as the liaison with Raffa regarding the financials for SGA. She is also the primary point of contact for Geoff Anderson. Prior to joining SGA, she was the Office Manager for a Fire, EMS and Emergency Rescue consulting firm in Arlington, Virginia. Paula is currently pursuing a Bachelor’s of Science in the field of Computer Information Technology and Business Management, with a minor in Accounting.