Herstory: Celebrating M-NCPPC Leaders


In honor of Women’s History Month, three Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission leaders tell their inspiring stories of how they reached the top echelons of the planning profession and offer advice for other women looking to be trailblazers of their own.

This article was originally published in Montgomery Planning’s blog, The Third Place, and was republished with permission. The Third Place spoke with Montgomery County Planning Board Commissioner Mitra Pedoeem, Montgomery Parks Director Miti Figueredo, and Prince George’s County Planning Director Lakisha Hull.

 

Montgomery County Planning Board Vice Chair Mitra Pedoeem

My passion kept me alive, and my values guided my resolve and sense of purpose. — Mitra Pedoeem, Montgomery County Planning Board Commissioner

“As a young girl in Tehran, I dreamed of being a civil engineer despite all the odds for a woman to have an engineering career in Iran. I had to study hard to compete in a male-dominated society that generally provided a much more inferior education for females. With focus, determination, and hard work my efforts paid off. Hundreds of thousands of people applied to Tehran University’s Engineering College. Only 60 were accepted, and I was the only female in that year’s cohort.

As a Jewish female student, I endured many acts of discrimination. Sadly, due to the rise of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, I had to leave the country before I could complete my final year at the college, and I have never returned due to the fear of persecution. As a 22-year-old refugee woman I struggled to make a living in New York City. I worked in sweat shops while learning a new language and adapting to a new culture. But my dream of being an engineer never faded. I prevailed with hard work and determination and was accepted into the University of Maryland where I earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering, a master’s degree in structural engineering, and became a bridge designer. My passion kept me alive, and my values guided my resolve and sense of purpose.

What I would say to an aspiring female leader is don’t be afraid to stand by what you believe in. Keep your values and follow them in doing the right thing. Don’t be afraid to take the first step to make a change. Don’t be afraid to open yourself to challenges and opportunities. Believe in yourself. Surround yourself with competent and loyal people. Do not be afraid to love or to be loved.”

Mitra Pedoeem, Montgomery County Planning BoardCommissioner

 

Miti Figueredo, Montgomery Parks Director

Do for others what you would want them to do for you, especially when it’s hard, so that it becomes a habit for everyone around you. — Miti Figueredo, Montgomery Parks Director

“When I was in law school in Chicago, I couldn’t have guessed that I’d end up serving as director of Montgomery Parks one day – but I followed my interests in public policy, planning, and sustainable communities and made it here through a combination of hard work, some very good luck, and relationships with key mentors and colleagues. And I feel so fortunate! It’s a big responsibility leading a department with over a thousand employees and a police department, but our leadership team works together so well and even during challenging, busy times we enjoy what we do because we know why it matters – good parks make people healthy and happy.

I think my liberal arts background – I studied history as an undergraduate at the University of Florida – and my legal training have been invaluable. Writing clearly and communicating persuasively are important skills even for technical subject matter experts like engineers and scientists. I really push our staff to think about how they can best frame their arguments and sell their good policy ideas.

My best leadership advice: have courage and try to do the right thing and remember you can’t make everyone happy. Do for others what you would want them to do for you, especially when it’s hard, so that it becomes a habit for everyone around you. And remember that you’ll make mistakes too, and the best thing to do is own up to them – we could all use a little grace now and then.”

 Miti Figueredo, Montgomery Parks Director

 

Lakisha Hull, Prince George's County Planning Director

I have learned that giving yourself and others grace, learning from your mistakes, and mastering the art of pivoting are paramount to staying the course. — Lakisha Hull, Prince George’s County Planning Director

“With my recent move to Prince George’s County in 2024, I am excited to join an impressive cohort of women leaders in this region! As M-NCPPC’s newly appointed planning director, I am grateful to lead a phenomenal team of professional planners while placemaking, partnerships, projects and people will drive my focus this year.

In the first few weeks of starting my new role, I conducted site visits, attended team-building exercises, public hearings, and met with several community stakeholders. Throughout my more than 20 years in the planning profession, my accomplishments include successful public-participation plans, updates to codes and policies, and managing large-scale projects and streetscape plans with cumulative construction budgets of over $5 billion.

As a young girl, I gravitated to art courses and kept a sketchbook nearby. I was grateful to have been raised in very diverse communities, with over 40 nationalities represented at my high school. After Hurricane Andrew forever changed the footprint of my hometown of Miami, my passion for architecture and creating sustainable communities came alive. As Miami was going through a renaissance, I became more fascinated by how neighborhoods were redeveloped and reimagined, which brought enlightenment to what my future career opportunities could entail.

My career has given me unexpected but rewarding moments in transportation planning, civil engineering, policy and land use planning, and community advocacy. What most excited me about my work is being able to collaborate with diverse teams and community stakeholders to bring sustainable infill projects to fruition. My all-time role models are Angela Glover Blackwell and Zaha Hadid because both are pioneers and visionaries in their respective fields. Ms. Glover Blackwell is the founder of Policylink, a nonprofit that transforms communities by advancing economic and social equity. Ms. Hadid was the first woman to receive the Pritzker Prize, the most prestigious architectural award in that field.

Whether leading teams in Miami, Orlando, Los Angeles, Charlotte, or in Prince George’s County, I have learned that giving yourself and others grace, learning from your mistakes, and mastering the art of pivoting are paramount to staying the course. In addition to maintaining a healthy support system, the best advice I’d give to my younger self is to have fun as you try out something new in your career and embrace failures on your road to success. The support system is key in developing as leader while engaging in community service, mentorship programs, and interdisciplinary projects. As legendary soccer star Pele said, ‘Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do.'”

 Lakisha Hull, Prince George’s County PlanningDirector

 

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17th Annual Kensington Day of the Book Festival

Now in its 17th year, the Kensington Day of the Book Festival is a family-friendly street festival featuring 150+ renowned authors, poets, and literary organizations. Enjoy live music on five stages, special guest speakers, military veteran writers and comedians, poetry readings, cookbook demos, children's program, and much more.

Admission is free, and attendees will also be able to explore a marketplace of books and food offerings from local vendors.

Not your average book festival! This festival offers something for everyone!

17th Annual Kensington Day of the Book Festival

Sunday, April 21, 2024, 11am-4pm (held rain or shine!)

Howard Avenue, Kensington, MD 20895

www.dayofthebook.com

Instagram: @kensingtonbookfestival

Contact: Elisenda Sola-Sole, Festival Director

[email protected]

301-949-9416 (text preferred)

FEST OF SPRING Caribbean Wine Food & Music Festival

Get ready to experience the vibrant colors, tantalizing flavors, and infectious rhythms of the Caribbean at the FEST OF SPRING Caribbean Wine Food & Music Festival! Hosted by RHU LLC, this exciting festival is set to take place on May 18, 2024, at the picturesque 16700 Barnesville Rd in Boyds, MD.

Step into a world where the Caribbean spirit comes alive! From 12:00 PM onwards, immerse yourself in a sensory journey that celebrates the unique culture, cuisine, and music of the Caribbean. Whether you're an African American, a Reggae or Soca music enthusiast, a wine lover, or part of the vibrant Caribbean diaspora, this festival promises to delight and captivate you in every way.

Let the enticing aromas of mouthwatering Caribbean dishes tantalize your taste buds. Feast on traditional delicacies prepared by expert chefs, showcasing the rich and diverse culinary heritage of the Caribbean. Indulge in flavorful jerk chicken, succulent seafood, and delectable plantain dishes that will transport you straight to the islands.

Accompanying the culinary extravaganza is a carefully curated selection of premium wines, ensuring the perfect pairing for your palate. Sip on fine wines from renowned vineyards, each sip a reflection of the Caribbean's vibrant spirit. Discover new flavors, expand your wine knowledge, and savor unforgettable moments with every glass.

As the sun sets, get ready to groove to the infectious rhythms of Caribbean music. Feel the pulsating beats of reggae, soca, dancehall, and calypso, moving your body to the lively melodies. Live performances by talented musicians and performers will keep the energy high, ensuring a night of unforgettable entertainment.

Don't miss this opportunity to embrace the Caribbean spirit and celebrate the arrival of spring in style! Tickets are available on AllEvents, so secure your spot today. Join us at the FEST OF SPRING Caribbean Wine Food & Music Festival, where cultures collide and unforgettable memories are made.

LIVE PERFORMANCES By: CULTURE Feat. Kenyatta Hill, EXCO LEVI, IMAGE BAND, RAS LIDJ REGG'GO with Special Guest SUGAR BEAR FROM E.U. & MORE! & MORE!

MUSIC By: DJ ABLAZE, DJ SMALLY & NAJ SUPREME

2 NIGHT Camping packages available: RV/CAMPER $200 | TENTS $150 Starting on Friday May 17 @ 5pm | 30 RV SPACES | 30+ TENT SPACES

KIDS 12 & UNDER FREE!!!

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