APA-NC Executive Committee Welcomes New Chair and Vice Chair to Membership and Diversity Committee

Author: Pete Sullivan, AICP

The APA-NC Executive Committee welcomes two new members to the Membership and Diversity Committee, Brendie Vega, AICP, and Eliza Monroe. Outgoing committee leadership, Cherie Jzar, AICP, and Candace Davis, are thanked for their many years of service to the chapter. The Membership and Diversity Committee’s purpose is to expand APA-NC membership and encourage diversity in the planning profession.

Brendie Vega, AICP, is the Assistant Director of Community Development with the Town of Wake Forest. She oversees the Planning Division, which covers Current Planning, Historic Preservation, and Transportation & Long Range Planning. Prior to working with Wake Forest, Brendie was Principal Planner with the Town of Apex, managing current planning activities for over 10 years. Brendie earned her Bachelor of Arts and Master of Urban Planning from the University of Michigan and has been a member of APA-NC since 2006. More recently, Brendie has become a member of the APA Latinos and Planning Division, addressing issues facing underrepresented ethnic groups in the APA.

Eliza Monroe is currently a Planning Technician with the Town of Apex. She primarily acts as a Small Business Liaison in helping local businesses find their place in Apex. Eliza earned her Bachelors of Science in Urban and Regional Planning from East Carolina. Eliza is currently a participant in the American Institute of Certified Planners Candidate Pilot Program. She recently accepted a volunteer role as a 2018 APA Ambassador and looks forward to planning events in her community to educate our nation’s future planners about the profession. In her spare time she loves running, reading, writing, and eating.

Past Chairs Cherie Jzar and Candice Davis will continue in their professional planning endeavors. Cherie Jzar, AICP, is Neighborhoods Program Manager with the City of Concord, and Candice Davis is Assistant to the Town Manager with the Town of Wake Forest.

Ms. Jzar served with APA-NC’s Executive Committee for 10 years and offers the following reflections on her role with the chapter.

Describe your role with APA-NC

Czar: I began as the Membership Co-chair in 2007, and in 2011 I became the Membership & Diversity Committee Chair when the two committees merged.

What accomplishments are you most proud of?

Czar: I am most proud of helping to establish two very important programs for our chapter. The first is the Chapter-Only Membership program that allows planners, students, and elected and appointed officials to join as members of our organization without going through APA. Prior to this program, membership was handled by APA and most chapter members also had national membership. Establishing this program provided an affordable membership option for students, elected officials and most importantly to members who may have employers with limited budgets. Secondly, I am most proud of leading the charge to establish the Chapter’s fellowship program which provides financial support and real work experience for a deserving minority or woman undergraduate or graduate student.

The fellowship provides the student with an opportunity to work on special projects with the Chapter. The goal of the fellowship is to encourage more minority students to pursue planning degrees in an effort to increase diversity within the profession.  Increased diversity awareness may help improve equity within the profession and enable planners to work more effectively in the communities they serve.

What are some challenges and opportunities facing the Membership and Diversity Committee? 

Czar: In North Carolina and nationally, African-Americans and Latinos are heavily underrepresented in the planning field, especially in the private sector. The lack of diversity in the planning profession is still very much an issue that we all must work to address.

While we have a fellowship in place that allows one student each year to interface with members and professional planners at the conference and to gain real world experience working on a planning project, we need to do more to engage more students of color.  There is an opportunity to do more to promote the planning profession to students of color to encourage a more diverse profession. We can do this by encouraging planners to join in mentorship opportunities and to register as Ambassadors.

Where are you currently working?

Czar: I am working in the City of Concord City Manager’s Office as the City’s Community Outreach and Engagement Coordinator. I am primarily focused on managing the City’s Neighborhood Program and the Partnership for Stronger Neighborhoods, which is an innovative citizen outreach and engagement program.