In Memory of Barb Mee, a Friend & Colleague of TPD's
Written by: Kristy Carter, AICP
This article was originally featured in the August 2022 issue of TPD’s internal newsletter. It was printed in a regular column managed by TPD’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) Committee.
Before I could put the finishing touches on this article, I had to pause my writing to attend a memorial service. Why am I talking about a memorial service in this article about equity?
Stay with me.
The funeral was for a colleague, Barb Mee, who is both a client and friend to many of the staff in TPD’s Asheville, NC office. She was the former City of Asheville’s bicycle and pedestrian coordinator, as well as one of our project managers for the Close the GAP project we are working on with the City, that was in the works when she passed away in December 2021. As things go in the COVID era, her family put the memorial service on pause..... until now. During the service, people were asked to share memories of Barb. Folks from her church told stories about her love of singing and her gift of showing up with soup when people were in need. Other people from the community began sharing about Barb’s commitment to those who walk and bike, especially those who walk because they have no other option.
The attendees heard from Judy, who has a visual impairment and attended with her guide dog; she shared about Barb’s advocacy to make walking possible for her by having power boxes moved, truncated domes installed, and poison ivy cleared. Then one of her coworkers talked about Barb’s kindness and also shared a story about Barb’s philosophy of sidewalks. Barb would say to him something along the lines of “Sidewalks are like desserts at a potluck... Everyone should get one before you go back for seconds.” As I walked home from the service, I thought about the meaning behind the Barb stories I had just heard. And then I thought, “Dang. I have to go home and rewrite this article.”
Technically, everyone getting one sidewalk is equality, not equity. But knowing Barb’s heart for equity work, I think I understand her intent. To us at TPD, equity means providing each person with the tools they need to move forward in the way they and the firm needs to go. In striving for equity, we start with a basic acknowledgement that some people’s life outcomes – like health, housing, and job access – are often predetermined by their identity (race, age, ability, language, vehicle access, etc.). Equity is figuring out how we can eliminate the barriers that create these disparities to create the outcomes that we seek for everyone.
HERE ARE A FEW WAYS ON HOW WE CAN DO IT AS PLANNERS AND ENGINEERS:
- Continue to build, support and celebrate the things that make us all different and unique – one of the most important ways we can deliver equity through our projects is building diverse project teams that reflect the types of people we find in our communities.
- Focus on community engagement - how do we engage with communities through the lens of equity?
- The language of equity is new to many of us. Consider taking some time to learn about the issues and how you can support change.
- Some primary professional associations, including ITE, ACEC, APA, and ASLA, have issued guidance on equity that outlines our profession’s ability to produce positive outcomes. As we engage with our local chapters, find ways to put these associations’ equity guidance into practice.
- Finally, be like Barb. Look for and incorporate the seemingly small project details that can make a big difference in a person’s life.
My final words are about as cliché as it can get, so don’t judge me too harshly. I can’t think of a higher compliment than someone showing up to my memorial service to say, “The work she did made a huge difference in my life.” Barb earned that compliment because she practiced equity – it was the heart of her work long before we were all talking about it. I’m happy to be working for a firm that is trying to do the same.
Reach out to me if you would like some ideas on where to start.
Kristy Carter, AICP is a Sr. Project Manager in TPD’s Traffic Engineering Services Department, with 25 years of experience in community and transportation planning, focusing on designing and executing transportation and community impact projects for dozens of communities. She resides in Asheville, NC, with her partner, Carey, where they enjoy working together to renovate their historic home, cycling with their crew and snuggling their rescue cats.
Contact: KCarter@TrafficPD.com | 1.877.873.9739