RenewLV, primarily because it is a Lehigh Valley Partnership spinoff that has masqueraded as a "grass roots" organization. But I admired former Exec Director Steve Bliss. From passenger rail to bi-county health, he was a tireless advocate who made his group "grass roots" in spite of itself. I particularly enjoyed the brown bag lunches, which could cover topics extending from bicycling to our struggling cities. Bliss was happy for the discussion, even with those who held different views. Unfortunately, once Steve left, RenewLV fell upon hard times. That's about to change.
Macungie resident Joyce Marin has been named RenewLV's Executive Director. There is no doubt in my mind that, with her at the helm, regionalism will get the hearing it deserves.
Unfortunately, I never got to know Marin until after I had beaten her up in several blog entries. I got to know her during her stint with the Allentown School District, where she worked on a number of after-school programs for the kids. She became consumed with them and their well-being, and remain involved in all kinds of programs for disadvantaged children after the money ran out. She still cared, just as much as the volunteers who run Allentown's Wall2Wall program, or Craig Golden, a Bethlehem basketball coach who came out of retirement because he the young men on his team wrote him and asked him to stay.
None of this has anything to do with her being Executive Director at RenewLV. But it has everything to do with why I must recognize that I had her wrong.
Marin is actually a co-founder of RenewLV, which is described as "smart-growth organization dedicated to revitalizing our urban cores and regional, cooperative approaches to government in the Lehigh Valley."
Her experience as a Main Street Manager, Emmaus Council member and as Allentown DCED Director has given her plenty of exposure to both revitalization and regionalism opportunities.
"Having an experienced, strategic and knowledgeable professional like Joyce will enable RenewLV to continue its important efforts to be the voice for regionalism in the Lehigh Valley," says Deana Zosky, co-chair of the RenewLV board of directors. "Joyce also brings a tremendous amount of passion for smart growth, which will help us engage our stakeholders and the general public and raise the level of discussion Valley-wide."
Marin's academic credentials include an MBA from the University of Pittsburgh and inclusion in the Knight Fellowship in Community Building at the University of Miami's School of Architecture, the recognized center for New Urban thought and practice.
"I'm really looking forward to the opportunity to direct my experience and education toward engaging the region's leadership and the public more deeply in the discussion of a sustainable Lehigh Valley, regional cooperation and the efficient use of our resources through utilization of smart growth principals and policies," said Marin.
In her new role, she's already begun revitalization within RenewLV itself. She's helping organize the Lehigh Valley's first smart growth conference, the Lehigh Valley Summit for Smart Growth, to be held on October 24th at the Holiday Inn at Center City in Allentown. "The summit is a great opportunity for both the region's leaders as well as regular citizens to get informed and engaged on what we can each do to have a better Lehigh Valley as we grow," said Marin.
I wish her luck.