As I was trudging through a miserable 6 miles on the treadmill yesterday, I decided to use the time productively to think about what inspires me and more specifically WHO inspires me. In running, my love of cities and life in general there are some people who are inspirations to me.
The summer before my senior year of college I decided to join the debate team (I know - dorky) after several years of being lobbied to join by a friend. That summer I met someone who became a dear friend - Mary Bess (now Mary Marantz). Mary and I became fast buds, and she's the kind of person who is completely unaware of her inspirational affect on others. A few years after we met I moved to Texas and Mary moved to England to get her masters and then went on to Yale Law School. We drifted apart in the way that can happen with distance and a lot happening in life. A few years ago we got in touch again. Mary ditched the law world and has a photography empire with her awesome husband Justin. I have so much admiration for her for doing something she loves and living a life that is truly enviable. The Justin and Mary blog is awesome, and it is one of few that I read regularly. It's truly a life inspiration.
A few months ago I saw a tweet from Meb Keflezighi (yes THE Meb Keflezighi - NYC marathon winner, Olympian, all around amazing runner) referring to a woman named Erin Henderson and her blog See Mom Run Far. I checked out Erin's blog and was hooked immediately. Here is a woman who decided just three years ago to change her life. She started running, lost 75 pounds, and is FAST. I love running, but I'll never break a 4 hour marathon. Erin ran 6 marathons last year and just broke her marathon PR at the Walt Disney World Marathon a few weeks ago (she ran 3:27:14!). On top of all of that Erin has 12 (YES 12!) children. She and her husband have three biological children and have adopted 9 children from the United States and all over the world. She is SO inspiring, and while I will never be as fast as Erin, I often think if she can dedicate herself to running in the awesome way she has, I can push through a few more miles on the treadmill.
When I graduated from law school I fell into the awesome job of being the Assistant to Mayor Paul Fraim in Norfolk, Virginia. I was 25 years old, had no clue what I was doing, and jumped into working for a man who loves his city. His vision for the City of Norfolk is impressive. He's been on the Norfolk City Council since 1986 and has been Mayor since 1994. When I started working for him in 2004 I was thoroughly intimidated and rightfully so. Mayor Fraim is the kind of person who knows what he wants Norfolk to look like and he makes it happen. He took a downtrodden downtown and revitalized it to a vibrant place with fantastic retail - the MacArthur Center was walking distance from my office at City Hall. Dangerous. There are tons of restaurants, residential and business development as well as cultural opportunities. When I was there the Mayor visited Millennium Park in Chicago and came back with a vision. That vision resulted in a total overhaul of Town Point Park on Norfolk's downtown waterfront. He also wanted light rail in downtown Norfolk and after years of planning, headaches and cost overruns, The Tide light rail system is now running through the city. It's that kind of planning, fortitude and love of a community that is what placemaking is all about.
And last, but certainly not least, my current boss Dan Gilmartin. Dan is the CEO of the Michigan Municipal League, and he's great to work for. When I started at the League 4 years ago, I'd been listlessly trying to figure out what I really wanted to do. I love cities, and I want to be part of making Michigan communities better. Starting at the League was like being reacquainted with an old friend. The organization strives to create places in Michigan that people want to live, work and play. Dan is fond of saying we're creating communities for the next 50 years, not the last 50 years. He is a strong leader of this organization with lots of ideas to help our communities thrive in the 21st century. He challenges all of us to think outside the box and to challenge ourselves. His blog, the Economics of Place, is a blueprint for what communities everywhere should be doing to create great places. It's a pleasure to work someplace where I love coming in every day and I believe in what I'm doing. It's Dan's leadership that makes this place thrive.
I think life is all about finding those people who make us want to push ourselves and be our best selves. Who inspires you?