News & Press: Affiliated Organizations

American Planning Association Members Elect New Board Members

Tuesday, November 21, 2017  
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CHICAGO – The American Planning Association (APA), a 38,000-member organization committed to promoting better communities through good planning has announced the election of nine members to serve on its governing Board of Directors.

The 16-member Board of Directors governs the association and sets its strategic goals. Each member serves as a volunteer and begins their term on January 1, 2018.

Kurt E. Christiansen, FAICPPresident-Elect
Christiansen is the 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, Northbridge. 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.

Lauren Driscoll, AICPAPA Director at Large
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. Driscoll will serve a four-year term in this position.

Marjorie (Marj) PressAPA Director at Large (focused for a Planning Board Member)
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, a bachelor’s degree from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Press has served APA in a variety of leadership roles, including as chair of the Divisions Council and advisor to the APA Board of Directors, founding member and chair of the LGBTQ and Planning Division, and 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. She will serve a four-year term in this role.

Courtenay Mercer, AICP, PPAPA Director, Region 1
Mercer was re-elected to another four-year term on the board. 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. Mercer will serve an additional four years in this role.

Leo Asuncion, Jr., AICPAPA Director, Region 5
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. Asuncion will serve a four-year term in this role.

Kristen Asp, AICPAPA Director, Region 6
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. Asp will serve a four-year term in this role.

Ben Hitchings, AICPChapter Presidents Council Representative
Hitchings is the director of Planning and Development Services for the town of Chapel Hill, 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. Hitchings will serve two years in this role.

David Fields, AICPDivisions Council Representative
Fields is a principal at Nelson\Nygaard Consulting Associates in the San Francisco, California, 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 of 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. Fields will serve two years in this role.

Rachael Thompson PanikStudent Representatives Council Chair
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 previously volunteered with the Alabama Environmental Council and the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Green Initiative Student Organization. Panik will serve two years in this role.

Learn more about APA at

The American Planning Association is an independent, not-for-profit educational organization that provides vital leadership in creating communities of lasting value. APA and its professional institute, the American Institute of Certified Planners, are dedicated to advancing the profession of planning, offering better choices for where and how people work and live. The 38,000 APA members work in concert with community residents, civic leaders and business interests to create communities that enrich people's lives. Through its philanthropic work, APA’s Foundation helps to reduce economic and social barriers to good planning. APA has offices in Washington, D.C., and Chicago. Learn more at


The Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning promotes education, research, service and outreach in the United States and throughout the world by seeking to:

  • recognize diverse needs and interests in planning;
  • improve and enhance the accreditation process, and;
  • strengthen the role of planning education in colleges and universities through publications, conferences, and community engagement;
  • extend planning beyond the classroom into the world of practice.


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