Urban Planning People and Events

Interview with Paul Bussey

Paul Bussey graduated with a Urban and Regional Planning concentration from the Department of Geography and Planning at GVSU in the Spring of 2013.  In October of 2013 he was promoted to the position of Regional Planner with the Northwest Michigan Council of Governments where, along with other assignments, he will be coordinating work on the NYMCOG portion of the Great Lakes Water Trail. 

Q:  Where did you grow up, and how might that have affected your outlook or insights as a planner

A:  I could answer this question two ways- 

a) I grew up in beautiful Leelanau County where resort towns dot the shorelines of Lake Michigan, Grand Traverse Bay and the many inland lakes. The county is rural and agricultural with large wooded areas, cherry and apple orchards and vineyards. 

b) I studied abroad as a Rotary exchange student in Chauffailles, Burgundy, France. I spent my senior year of high school living there. During that time I was fortunate enough to visit The Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, Monaco and many towns and cities around France. I did a lot of “growing up” during this year abroad and visiting some of Europe’s greatest cities was a major part of that.

Q:  What other reason(s) were you were attracted to the field of planning (as a profession and/or major)?

A: After my exchange I was very interested in all things international. I started at GVSU riding the line between Political Science and International Relations hoping I would have made up my mind when it came time. I would search the internet endlessly looking for what jobs would take me overseas and followed the Devex job postings for international development jobs. I realized from looking at people’s profiles that they all had gained expertise in their home country and then took that abroad. So I asked myself what I would want to be an expert on here that would be applicable to these projects abroad. During that search I discovered the planning field and instantly knew that it was what I wanted to do.

Above: Paul Bussey confers with Planner and Adjunct Professor Judith Transue on the format for a Detroit field trip.

Q:  When you were a student, was there a book or author in Urban Planning that was particularly influential to you in your thinking about the field or the world?

A:  So many books have helped to shape my views, but I would say that two stand out: Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered by E.F. Schumacher and Green Metropolis: Why Living Smaller, Living Closer, and Driving Less are the Keys to Sustainability by David Owen.

Q:  What geography requirements—beyond your planning courses—became most useful to you as a planner and why?

A: Hands down, I would say that my capstone project was the most directly applicable Geography requirement. Dr. Cole helped my refine my project on tribal planning in Michigan. I was so wrapped up in it I had to apologize to a lot of people for falling off the face of the Earth for a few months! 

Q:  Which of the areas in planning would you say you specialize in at work today (housing, zoning, site design, environmental planning, “place making,” economic development etc.)?

A: At NWMCOG I am definitely not specializing in any one area which works well for me. I have taken on a lot of GIS work for different projects. Knowing my way around GIS has been very beneficial since I would say 90% of my workload involves ArcMap. Starting out I actually am more interested in trying everything once, working on several different projects in different areas to find which work best for me. I’m currently working on a Fair Housing Equity Assessment, commercial corridor inventory mapping, a composite regional future land use map for six counties, two recreation management plans and data collection for BATA, our area public transportation provider.

Q: What topics in planning would you like to learn more about in the year ahead and why?  How do you keep learning?

A: Data, data, data! Managing data, finding the right data, does it already exist and if so where? I’ve had a big learning curve in terms of extracting and handling data from various sources, primarily the American Community Survey and HUD. I would love to go back and add a class specifically on sourcing and managing data. (Hence why I’ll be attending the “Getting Good Data and Creating Cool Infographics” session at the MAP conference this year!)  I do try to keep up with planning news from Planetizen, MAP, APA, and Sustainable Cities Collective. I will also pursue AICP certification which contains a continued education component.

Page last modified November 3, 2013