Employee Spotlight: Sarah Kelly, AICP

By March 25, 2019Staff Activity

For nearly five years, Planning NEXT has been lucky to have Sarah Kelly on the team. From her beginnings at Dartmouth studying government, to her time leading two non-profits in Boston, to exploring new societies while working in Dublin, Ireland and studying in Amsterdam, to completing a graduate degree at MIT—all of Sarah’s experiences have shaped her perspective, skills and work today. Her passion continues to grow as she seeks innovative ways to engage places and people to have a voice in the planning process.

Empowering communities. At the core of Sarah’s work is the idea of bringing people together. In a time when inequity continues to grow in the United States, Sarah strives to be a part of countering these trends at the local level. Prior to Planning NEXT, Sarah led non-profit environmental and historic preservation advocacy organizations and actively worked to shift conversations to the neighborhood level and to focus on traditionally under-served communities. With Planning NEXT, she continues to ensure community members are involved in envisioning the future. For her work on Phoenix Next, she encouraged the Northwest Dayton community to confront challenging conditions but also be hopeful in inspiring change and establishing a vision for the neighborhood.

Making planning for everyone. Sarah’s favorite part of her job is how rewarding it is to share the planning process with everyone, and surprising people who don’t think of themselves as experts by empowering them to shape plans. Across all projects, Sarah strives to make the process exciting and accessible to anyone who cares about the future of their community—emphasizing how important their role is in ensuring their plans come to fruition.

Staying curious. Outside of Planning NEXT, Sarah is an active member of her community in Grandview Heights and enjoys it with her husband and their two kids. Originally from the East Coast, Sarah had never set foot in Central Ohio before deciding to move here. But since arriving, she’s visited almost all the Metro Parks (one left this summer!) and explored countless miles on her bike with her family. She serves on her local planning commission and actively participates in efforts to continue to improve her community.

Planning for diverse needs. “The diversity in the types of communities and projects that I’ve had the chance to work on has been really rewarding. I’m proud to have been a part of helping plan for unprecedented population growth and change in Central Ohio communities including Delaware (Delaware Together comprehensive Plan) and Upper Arlington (River Ridge and Kingsdale West Study). I’ve also found it really rewarding to help develop strategies for how to tackle challenges of inequity, address specific needs such as quality “missing middle” housing and proactively improve social determinants of health. Currently, I’m challenged by and excited about my work in Wayne County, Ohio—where there is a strong value placed on agricultural heritage and a rural lifestyle, but also a need to strategize about where and how new development should be directed.”

Sarah’s Recent Projects

View Sarah’s strengths in her recent projects: