Urban Planning Conference

Forsyth Park Fountain

The Presenters and the Presentation Titles

Presenters of the conference consist of various planning professionals, public administrators, college professors, tourism experts, design professionals, and historic preservationists.  The presenters and their presentation titles are as follows:

  1. Emily Bentley, JD, Savannah State University (Integrating potential impacts on historic building and collections; Demographics and vulnerability to disaster)
  2. Daniel Carey, Historic Savannah Foundation (Preservation and recovery of historic buildings in Savannah's historic districts)
  3. Dr. Charles Elmore, Savannah State University (The resilience of historic buildings at Savannah State University)
  4. Ellen Harris, AICP, The Chatham-Savannah Metropolitan Planning (Reinvestment, restoration and repair: Getting it right)
  5. Dr. Shinaz Jindani, Savannah State University with four MSW students: LaTasha Hawkins, Fatima Crayton, Tatyana Hickman, and Samantha Klepper (Building resilience through an alternative macro and micro approach)
  6. Dr. Otis Johnson, Savannah State University with two community representatives: W. John Mitchell, and Freddie Patrick (Resilience planning at the neighborhood level)
  7. Dr. Behrooz Kalantari, Savannah State University (Resilience for services: Improving productivity in the public sectors)
  8. Bryan Myers, Region 4 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (Climate resilience: Issues for coastal communities)
  9. Dr. Mohamed Mukhtar, Savannah State University (History of resilient communities: How they recovered from disasters and disruptions)
  10. Dr. Deden Rukmana, Savannah State University (Demographics and vulnerability to disaster)
  11. Laura Seifert, The Savannah Heritage Emergency Response Group (Identifying potential impacts on historic building and collections)
  12. Dr. Deborah Johnson-Simon, The Center for the Study of African and African Diaspora Museums and Communities (Heritage preservation: Creating an emergency preparedness and response plan for historic properties and sites and museum collections)
  13. Thomas L. Thomson, P.E., AICP, The Chatham-Savannah Metropolitan Planning Commission (Reinvestment, restoration and repair: Getting it right)
  14. Phillip Webber, Witt O'Brien's (Building a culture of preparedness in historic and vulnerable communities)

All session have been approved by the American Planning Association for the CM credits for American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) holders. The agenda of their presentations can be found here.


Profiles of the Presenters                                                        

Emily Bentley, JD, is an associate professor of the Homeland Security and Emergency Management (HSEM) program.  She teaches courses in risk management, emergency planning, emergency management, and homeland security law and policy, and related issues.  At SSU, Ms. Bentley led a three-year research project focused on understanding the disaster preparedness needs of vulnerable populations in Chatham County, Ga., particularly related to taking protective action, such as evacuation.  Areas of research and academic interest include all hazard risk management, continuity planning as policy; effective hazard and disaster communications; and disaster planning process.  In addition to teaching, disaster planning (continuity, mitigation, response operations, port security, etc.) and program assessment.  She received her bachelor’s degree in journalism from Auburn University and law degree from Faulkner University Jones School of Law. She previously worked as a lawyer and journalist.

Daniel Carey is the President and CEO of Historic Savannah Foundation since December of 2008.  He came to Savannah after serving nearly 18 years in various field positions at the National Trust for Historic Preservation—most recently as director of the Southwest Office in Fort Worth, Texas.  Prior to that, Daniel served for ten years in the Southern Office of the National Trust in Charleston, South Carolina.  Born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky, Daniel worked for five years in state and local government before joining the National Trust. He holds a bachelor’s degree in American Studies from the University of Notre Dame and a master’s degree in Historic Preservation from Western Kentucky University.  He also earned a certificate in law and public policy from the University of Texas at Arlington. Daniel leads a strong organization in Historic Savannah Foundation with a seasoned staff of 8, a board of 25, a membership of over 700, and an annual budget of more than $1 million.  HSF is proud of its outstanding museum—the Davenport House, its nationally recognized Revolving Fund, its strong educational programs, and its commitment to advocacy. For more than five decades, HSF has been a recognized leader in the preservation movement and Daniel is working to take it to the next level. 

Dr. Charles J. Elmore is a retired professor emeritus of Humanities-Savannah State University (SSU). He has published in refereed and non-refereed journals, and is noted as an authority on black history in Savannah, African American religious history, history of Savannah, jazz history, jazz history from an Afrocentric perspective, African American oral tradition, African American literature/poetry, history of Savannah State University, and role of blacks in the Revolutionary and Civil Wars.  Charles Elmore has served on the Board of Curators, Georgia Historical Society (GHS), and GHS’s Historical Marker Committee. He was appointed by the Honorable Roy Barnes, (former) Governor of Georgia, to the Civil War Commission from 2000 – 2003.   In 1997 he was named Regents’ Distinguished Professor (Savannah State University).  Two years later in 1999, he was one of the six recipients of the prestigious Governor’s Award in the Humanities for his efforts in preserving and sharing African American history and culture. In 2002, he was awarded the Beach Institute Education Award by the King-Tisdell Cottage Foundation, Inc. Also, in 2002, he appeared as a consulting historian in episode four of Georgia Public Television’s production Georgia’s Civil War.  The Ralph Mark Gilbert Civil Rights Museum awarded him the W. W. Law History Award in December 2003. He has served on the Board of Trustees of the Coastal Heritage Society and City of Savannah’s Historic District Review Board.  In 2006, he received the Distinguished Service Award from the Southern Regional Press Institute (Savannah State University) as well as its Louis J. Corsetti Award for Excellence in Journalism (2009). In 2010, he was recognized as an outstanding educator and historian by the Savannah Black Heritage Festival.

Ellen Harris, AICP is Director of Urban Planning and Historic Preservation of Chatham-Savannah Metropolitan Planning Commission,She is responsible for supervision and coordination of the Chatham County Historic Preservation Program and the City of Savannah Historic Preservation Program. She also provides staff support to the Historic District Board of Review, the Historic Site and Monument Comission, Chatham County Historic Preservation Commission, and the Chatham County Resource Protection Commission. Coordinates, manages, and administers multi-disciplinary urban planning historic preservation projects. 

Dr. Shinaz Jindani is a professor and coordinator of Master of Social Work program at Savannah State University.

Dr. Otis Johnson is the current Scholar in Residence at Savannah State University.  Dr. Johnson is a former Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences (SSU); and former Mayor of the city of Savannah, Georgia.  He received his Ph.D. in social welfare policy from Brandeis University (Waltham, Massachusetts) in 1980.  Prior to attending Brandeis, Dr. Johnson earned degrees from Armstrong Atlantic University (Associate of Arts), University of Georgia (Bachelor of Arts) and Atlanta University (Master of Social Work).  For decades, Dr. Johnson has been involved in the Savannah community.  Prior to becoming mayor, he was elected to the Savannah City Council and Savannah Chatham County Board of Public Education.  Dr. Johnson was the founding executive director of Savannah’s nationally recognized Youth Futures Authority.  He is currently on the board of trustees of the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation (Winston-Salem, NC) and is the current Chair of the board of directors of MDC (Durham, NC).

Dr. Behrooz Kalantari is a professor of Public Administration at Savannah State University. Dr. Kalantari received his Ph.D. from Southern Illinois University in 1990 in Political Science with concentration in public administration.  He also holds a master’s degree in public management from Southern Illinois University and a B.A. in public management from Avila University and a B.A. in business administration from Tehran Business College. He currently holds the rank of Professor in the department of political science and public Affairs.  His areas of research include Strategic Planning, Human resource Management, Emergency Management (earthquake Management), and administrative law.  In addition he has received intensive training in decision-making and strategic planning and is certified by Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia as the official Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Liaison at SSU.  He has published over twenty-five scholarly work and presented over thirty research papers at different conferences in public management. He has conducted management consultation works with the United Nations in the Middle East as well as Neighborhood Improvement Association and the Red Cross in Savannah Georgia.  In addition, Dr. Kalantari has received the outstanding ADR award from the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia among the thirty-five institutions of higher education in the system in 2008.

Bryan Myers is the Climate Change Coordinator at the US EPA Region 4 in Atlanta, GA. He has worked for EPA for over 18 years gaining a broad base of regulatory experience across several media.   He has worked as both an engineer and attorney, and was the EPA regional congressional liaison working with over 100 U.S. Congressmen and Senators to address their wide ranging concerns and inquiries.  In late 2012, Mr. Myers was named Energy and Climate Change Coordinator for Region 4.  He has been working to encourage the climate preparedness and resilience dialogue, as well as broaden renewable energy development in the southeast.  Over the last year, Mr. Myers led the development of the regional climate adaptation plan, a plan that addresses EPA program vulnerabilities to potential extreme weather and changes to climate. Bryan has a law degree from the University of Oregon and Bachelors in Chemical Engineering from Georgia Tech.

Dr. Mohamed Mukhtar is a professor of history at Savannah State University. He is a two-time Fulbright Scholar. He has written widely on the history of Somalia and Muslim experience in the USA. His major publications include Historical Dictionary of Somalia (2003), and English-May Dictionary (2007). His articles and chapters appeared in such journals as History in Africa, Journal of Methods, Journal of the African Activist Association, African Renaissance, and Review of African Political Economy.

Dr. Deden Rukmana is an associate professor and coordinator of Urban Studies and Planning Program at Savannah State University, USA. He received a PhD degree in Urban and Regional Planning from Florida State University and completed master degree programs from the University of Southern California as well as Bandung Institute of Technology. Prior to joining Savannah State University, he worked as a planning analyst with the Florida Department of Community Affairs. He also has eight years of experience as urban planner in Indonesia. He has authored a book (Residential Origins of the Homeless: Spatial Distribution Analysis and Implications to Homelessness Prevention Interventions), nine articles in refereed journals, five book chapters, eight encyclopedia entries, two book reviews, and dozens of Op-ed pieces in various publications, newspapers and magazines in the US, Indonesia, Singapore and the UK. He is also a co-editor of Journal of Indonesian Regional Development and Environment since February 2011.

Laura Seifert is the chair Savannah Heritage Emergency Response Group (SHER).SHER is a constituency of public and private non-profit sites, institutions and collection, first responders and emergency management personnel formed to bring together personnel from these entities to implement and maintain heritage emergency planning, networking, communication, and disaster response measures. She has received national attention for her efforts in the development of SHER.

Dr. Deborah Johnson-Simon is a Museum Anthropologist and the Founder and CEO of The Center for the Study of African and African Diaspora Museums and Communities. CFSAADMC is a research lab dedicated to scholarly investigation of the history and culture of the African Diaspora descendant experiences surrounding Black cultural institutions. Dr. Johnson-Simon has worked for more than 20 years on museum and cultural heritage projects in several states including Arizona, Florida, Maryland, Virginia, South Carolina, and now in Georgia.  Additionally, she has taught at Santa F Community College and the University of Florida both in Gainesville, Florida where she earned her Ph.D. in Anthropology.  She earned her MA in Anthropology and Museum Studies from Arizona State University in Tempe Arizona and her BA in Anthropology/Sociology from Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida.  She is currently enrolled at Savannah State University to earn a second master's degree in Urban Studies and Planning.

Thomas L. Thomson, P.E., AICP is currently the executive director of the Chatham County – Savannah Metropolitan Planning Commission (MPC) and executive director of the Coastal Region Metropolitan Planning Organization (CORE MPO).  The Planning Commission reviews zoning, approves development plans and prepares the comprehensive plans for the area.  Thomson leads a MPC staff that serves seven other boards tha cover historic reviews, zoning appeals, historic preservation, and resource protection, geographic information systems, and the CORE MPO, the latter which is the regional agency responsible for transportation planning.  In addition the MPC conducts numerous studies and engages the public in the planning process. Thomson has almost 40 years of experience in planning, management and engineering.  He has directed programs and projects in roadway planning, public transportation, marketing, policy, engineering and community consensus building. Prior to his current position, he was director of the transportation division for the Hillsborough County Planning & Growth Management Department in Tampa, Florida.  He has also held senior positions at the Florida Department of Transportation in both Miami and Tampa and he was the assistant director of the Hillsborough County City-County Planning Commission as well as the executive director of the Hillsborough County MPO. In addition to these public service jobs he was the regional manager and statewide practice lead for local offices of two national consulting firms. Mr. Thomson graduated from Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin with both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in civil engineering.  He and his wife live in Savannah and have two grown children.

Phillip Webber is currently the vice president for consulting services - planning, Witt O'Brien's. He is an emergency management professional with 35 years of hands-on experience in disaster preparedness and response, planning, public and private sector safety, disaster mitigation, emergency response and recovery, homeland security, and emergency management. He has a proven record in emergency management program development through partnerships and team-building across government agencies, the first responder community, private sector, non-profit and faith-based organizations, and citizens. Mr. Webber has successfully applied his holistic, community wide approach emergency management in his home community as a local Emergency Management Director and in communities across the country as a consultant for Witt O’Brien’s. His operational experience combined with executive-level leadership in public sector emergency management enable him to identify and prioritize emergency management program needs, incorporate diverse interests and perspectives, and implement strategies that improve disaster outcomes. A veteran of 20 years active duty in the U.S. Coast Guard and 12 years as a local director and practitioner of emergency management, Mr. Webber has experience in response operations as well as in policy development and implementation. He has measurable success in achieving desired outcomes in all aspects of disaster preparedness through the development of emergency operations plans and procedures, mitigation plans, recovery plans, evacuation plans, business continuity plans, exercise and training programs, communication strategies, and public education and awareness plans and programs. As Vice President of Consulting Services - Planning for Witt|O’Brien’s, Mr. Webber provides and guides consulting services to public and private sector clients in emergency preparedness, mitigation, response, recovery and business continuity.