Executive Directors Conference
& Board Retreat

October 27-30, 2019
Scottsdale, Arizona

The annual Executive Directors Conference & Board Retreat is designed by and for executive directors and board members of Regional Councils and Metropolitan Planning Organizations. The conference, held in a different region of the country each year, brings executives and elected officials together to discuss topics ranging from organizational structure, innovative best practices, and new developments in technology. 

The 2019 Executive Directors Conference & Board Retreat was held October 27-30, 2019 at the Saguaro Hotel in Scottsdale, Arizona, and was hosted by the Maricopa Association of Governments.

Conference Sessions and Presentations

Sunday, October 27

1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. Mobile Tour: Native Nations Tour – Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community

The Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community (SRPMIC) is a sovereign nation located in the metropolitan Phoenix area, bounded by the cities of Scottsdale, Tempe, Mesa, Fountain Hills, and the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation. The community encompasses 52,600 acres, with 19,000 held as a natural preserve. SRPMIC enabled robust economic development in the area through their decision to allow the Loop 101, a critical regional freeway, to cross their lands. This mobile tour will explore the ways the Native nations work with the region, showcasing tourism and commercial development projects. The tour will also include a visit of Salt River Fields at Talking Stick which serves as the spring training home to the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies.

6:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. Welcome to Scottsdale Opening Reception  

Gather with friends at Scottsdale’s Museum of the West for an evening reception, kicking off two days of peer sharing and networking. The museum, located in the heart of Old Town, Scottsdale, boasts awardwinning architecture and landscape design, showcasing the beauty and history of the American West.

Monday, October 28

8:30 a.m. – 9:00 a.m. Welcome to the Region

The Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG) welcomes you to the region.


  • Kathleen Lomako, Executive Director, Southeast Michigan Council of Governments; Chair, NARC Executive Directors Council
  • Eric Anderson, Executive Director, Maricopa Association of Governments
  • The Honorable Mark Mitchell, Mayor of the City of Tempe, AZ; Chair, Maricopa Association of Governments

9:15 a.m. – 11:45 a.m. Rapid-Fire Innovations Session

Share with your colleagues (in two minutes or less) a new project, study, revenue enhancement, or other innovation your regional council is pursuing. Handouts and other materials are welcomed but not required.


  • Ty Warner, Executive Director, Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission

11:45 a.m. – 12:30 p.m Lunch and Presentation: Building the World’s Most Experienced Driver

Dezbah Hatathli, Local Policy and Community Manager for Waymo, will provide an overview of Waymo’s self-driving technology, including its intersection with the cities and agencies in the Greater Phoenix Region


  • Dezbah Hatathli, Local Policy and Community Manager, Waymo

12:45 p.m. – 1:15 p.m. Planning for the Future in the Greater Phoenix Area

The Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG) is the Phoenix region’s MPO and COG. It provides a forum for research, discussion, and study of regional issues. MAG’s goal is to strengthen regional coordination and utilize applied research to support the greater Phoenix area. Eric Anderson, MAG Executive Director, will provide an overview of the organization, its engagement strategies with regional decision-makers, and its opportunities and challenges.


  • Eric Anderson, Executive Director, Maricopa Association of Governments

1:15 p.m. – 2:15 p.m. 21st Century Regional Council

 As regional councils, how might we evolve to accelerate the positive and inclusive impacts we know are needed in the 21st century? This discussion will help us collectively identify change that matters, assess implications, and develop adaptive, proactive responses needed for the path ahead.


  • Doug Hooker, Executive Director, Atlanta Regional Commission
  • William Murdock, Executive Director, Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission

2:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. Transportation, Land Use, and Housing

Regional councils are uniquely positioned to understand the interplay between transportation priorities, land use decisions, and housing policy. Hear about the experience of three regions and how they are bringing these issues together through the planning and prioritization process and program development.


  • Andrew Gruber, Executive Director, Wasatch Front Regional Council
  • Kevin Muhs, Executive Director, Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission
  • Kristina Egan, Executive Director, Greater Portland Council of Governments

3:30 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. Hiring, On-Boarding, and Retaining: Regional Councils and Human Resources

How are you responding to a tightening and changing labor market? Are you finding it increasingly difficult to match workers and jobs? How are you reorganizing your human resource efforts to ensure that you find and retain the best employees for every job in your regional council? These and many other questions will be the focus of this session in which executive directors will be invited to share with one another their human resources experiences and concerns.


  • Betty Voights, Executive Director, Capital Area Council of Governments

4:00 p.m. – 5:15 p.m. Unconference Session

You set the agenda for this session! Earlier in the day, attendees will be prompted to suggest discussion topics. Attendees will vote on their favorite topics, which will be used for several roundtable discussions. Each roundtable will be led by the person who suggested that table’s topic. Participants will be free to attend whichever sessions interest them and can move between groups if they would like.


  • Sean O’Day, Executive Director, Mid-Willamette Valley Council of Governments

Tuesday, October 29

8:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Fiscal Officers Working Group Meeting

8:00 a.m. – 9:30 a.m. Transportation Research Board (TRB) – NCHRP Focus Group  

It’s been nearly 50 years since the first metropolitan planning organizations arrived on the scene. Technologies, financing, demographics, environmental concerns, and multimodal roles have changed dramatically in that time. The National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) has launched NCHRP 08-122 to look at how 21st century challenges are affecting MPO processes and identify ways that MPOs and their partners can address them going forward. We want to understand the challenges you face in these changing times.


  • Scott Lane, Metro Analytics

9:30 a.m. – 10:15 a.m. Working with Your Federal Neighbors

Federal facilities in our regions can provide jobs and economic opportunities. However, planning around and collaborating with federal interests can be difficult. Learn about one region’s success in working with military installations and share your experiences working with federal entities.


10:30 a.m. – 11:15 a.m. Promoting Regional Resilience

This year’s floods, storms, and fires have reminded us that no region is free from the risk of natural disasters. Regional councils are playing an increasingly important role in developing community resilience and reducing the negative impacts that these disasters have on communities. Several of our member organizations will share how they have developed plans, partnerships, and tools to promote resilience in their regions.


11:15 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. What I Know Now That I Wish I Knew Then (Rapid-Fire Format)

During this interactive session, attendees are encouraged to share the lessons they have learned over the years. Share advice and past experiences to help your peers avoid costly setbacks, expect the unexpected, and prepare for times of transition.


  • Barry Seymour, Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission

12:15 p.m. Lunch / Executive Directors Conference Adjourns

12:30 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. NARC Executive Directors Council Meeting

3:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. Mobile Tour: Valley Metro Rail Operations & Maintenance Center (Joint tour with board members)

The Rail Operations and Maintenance Center (OMC), built in 2006 for the original 20-mile light rail line, provides office space and facilities to store, maintain, and operate trains. The rail system now covers 28 miles and connects three cities, with more development planned that will require the expansion of the OMC. Presently, the rail fleet includes 50 vehicles and provides service to over 45,000 passengers on an average weekday.