View the winning and runner-up photos of the 2023 NADO Member Photo Contest below. 

Stay tuned for more details and background on the winning photos!

2023 NADO Member Photo Contest Winners

Investing in Our Regional Economy

Land of Sky Regional Council (NC)

This photo was taken of local high school students using one of the resources provided by the Land of Sky P20 Council’s FAFSA P.A.C.K. (Promotions for Awareness & Completion Kit).

Every aspect of life as we know it has been shifted in some way or another these past few years.  It comes as no surprise that in a time when schools were closed and so many other aspects of our everyday lives were on hold, the numbers of students applying to college and for student financial aid decreased significantly.  No matter the temptation to dismiss the downward trend of students continuing their education post – high school as one that will repair itself now that the world has re-opened, educators everywhere have been seeing this trend even before the pandemic.  Echoing the sentiments of students and families in previous years, when 2022 graduates were asked why they had not chosen college, many cited financial concerns for their lack of enthusiasm for that route. 

With the financial barrier to attending college in the forefront of students’ minds, it has become a large focus of college access efforts throughout the state of NC, and the Land of Sky Region in Western North Carolina is no different. Due to the many financial options that completing the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) can unlock for students seeking post-secondary education, there has been a great deal of focus on supporting students and families in that process. Thanks to the tireless efforts of our local high school counselors, and the many local and statewide organizations supporting them, students throughout North Carolina and the WNC region completed the FAFSA in larger numbers in 2022 than 2021, with many schools in the area continuing the upward trend into 2023.  For example, there was a collective 10% increase in among the five school systems under the P20 umbrella. While we have seen great growth, the region must continue to experience strong increases in order to fill our workforce credentialing gap and our share of myFutureNC’s 2030 goals.

The P20 Council hopes that by offering FAFSA P.A.C.K. for any agency of the region to use at no cost for settings/events that we can increase FAFSA awareness among students and their families.  This kit involves cornhole boards featuring local college logos, prizes, a spinning prize wheel with prepared questions and answers that addresses common misconceptions about the FAFSA, and other materials for a comprehensive set up dedicated to this cause. Read more here

Strengthening the Built and Natural Environment 

Tri County Economic Development District (WA) 

In July of 2023, Seattle City Light and the Colville National Forest hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony to inaugurate two new overlook areas, Peewee Falls and Riverside Canyon, located on the east side of the Boundary Reservoir in northern Pend Oreille County. The reservoir is part of City Light’s Boundary Dam Hydroelectric Project, offering outdoor recreational opportunities to visitors from across the region. Featured in the photo are Chris Townsend, Seattle City Light Director of Natural Resources and Hydro Licensing, and Carin Vadala, District Ranger at Newport Sullivan Lake for the USFS- Colville National Forest.

The new overlooks provide stunning views of the landscape and make these sights more accessible to the public. Each location is equipped with restroom facilities, picnic tables, parking spaces, and easily navigable gravel walking trails. The overlook platforms include benches for visitors to sit and enjoy the views.

Tri County Economic Development District actively collaborates with the Colville National Forest in promoting the region for tourism development. Through strategic planning and cooperative efforts, the Tri County Economic Development District works to foster the potential of the Colville National Forest’s natural allure with tourism-based economic opportunities in Pend Oreille County.

Building Vibrant Places

Metropolitan Area Planning Agency (MAPA) (NE-IA)

First Avenue, a former railroad corridor vacated in 2013, is one block south of Council Bluffs, Iowa’s main thoroughfare, West Broadway. Nearly 60% of Council Bluffs residents live within one-mile of this corridor. The grand opening of this multi-modal corridor enhances the operation of West Broadway, makes an essential link in the trail system, creates a transit link to Downtown Omaha, and provides the opportunity for redevelopment of obsolete industrial properties.

FIRST AVE is an acronym for the City’s comprehensive approach to redeveloping this corridor:

Furthering Interconnections, Revitalization, Streetscapes, Transportation, and Aesthetics for a Vibrant Economy.

The trail is part of the urban core strategy which Omaha and Council Bluffs are working on together. MAPA awarded a Heartland 2050 Mini-Grant from Surface Transportation Block Grant funding to help fund the First Avenue Transit Alternatives Analysis. The alternatives analysis identified a possible future streetcar line extension from downtown Omaha into Council Bluffs along the First Avenue corridor. MAPA also awarded funding for and is working with Council Bluffs on a Planning and Environmental Linkages Study regarding a multimodal bridge to connect future transit into the corridor.

Sustaining Our Communities

Mid-Minnesota Development Commission (MMDC) 

Minnesota’s winters are notorious for being long, cold, and dark. One of the beautiful effects of the cold, though, is the atmospheric optical phenomenon called a sundog. Sundogs look like halos because of the hexagonal ice crystals that act as prisms. This photo was taken on a typical Minnesota winter day with a temperature of minus 4 degrees Fahrenheit (-4 ºF). Yes, someone actually stood outside in subzero weather to capture this photo!

The wind turbine shown in the background is one of two wind turbines used to provide renewable energy to the city of Willmar, Minnesota. With a population of approximately 21,000, Willmar is located in Kandiyohi County, two hours directly west of Minneapolis. The Mid-Minnesota Development Commission (MMDC) region includes the four Minnesota counties of Kandiyohi, McLeod, Meeker and Renville. MMDC’s Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) supports renewable energy projects and encourages sustainable practices throughout the region.

2023 NADO Member Photo Contest Runners-Up

Building Vibrant Places

Miami Valley Regional
Planning Commission (OH)

Strengthening the Built
and Natural Environment

North Central Pennsylvania Regional Planning
& Development Commission

Investing in Our Regional Economy

Development Bank
of American Samoa

Sustaining Our Communities

River Valley
Regional Commission (GA)


Contact Joe D'Antonio

Regional Development Researcher Andrew Coker joined the NADO team in March of 2023 after spending two and a half years as the Regional Economic Resiliency Coordinator at West Central Arkansas Planning and Development District. Andrew holds a bachelor’s degree from Hendrix College and a master’s degree from the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service.

At NADO, Andrew conducts research on the newest economic and community development best practices from Economic Development Districts across the country. He helps produce easily digestible information on complex regional issues through case studies, tip sheets, and research reports. Andrew also hosts training and professional development opportunities including conference sessions and virtual webinars for member regional development organizations.

Andrew is one of our Missouri-based team members and enjoys reading and training for his next triathlon.

Jack Morgan came to the NADO team in 2022 after seven years with the National Association of Counties (NACo) as a Program and Senior Program Manager. Prior to NACo, Jack was a Policy Analyst for Friends of Southwest Virginia. Jack holds a bachelor’s in geography from Emory & Henry College and a master’s in geography from Appalachian State University.

As a NADO Senior Program Manager, Jack leads capacity-building and peer-learning work supporting energy communities in economic transition, regional resilience, and recreation economies. He also helps with the EDA-Austin training program Emerging Leaders.

Jack is certified by the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) and is a member of the American Planning Association (APA) in the Regional & Intergovernmental Planning division. He also serves on the Emory & Henry College Alumni Board.

Taking road trips, reading non-fiction, and indulging in top-notch barbecue and coffee round out Jack’s days. He loves maps, mountains, and of course, all things sports.

Karron Grant joined the NADO team in 2023 as Administrative Specialist and is the first face (or voice) you’ll see or hear when reaching out to NADO. As Administrative Specialist, Karron manages our database and coordinates NADO event operations. He ensures members’ needs are met, contact information stays current, and NADO’s office is running efficiently.

Karron came to NADO after four years in the classroom teaching at The New Century School and Old Mill Middle North where he received the Patriot of the Year award. He attended Towson University and the University of Maryland Global Campus and holds a bachelor’s in international studies and humanities.

Visiting art galleries and museums, playing basketball and bowling, and taking in movies and music are some of Karron’s interests and hobbies.

Deputy Executive Director Laurie Thompson has been with NADO for 25 years. Laurie helps keep the NADO and NADO Research Foundation wheels turning through management of the daily operations of the Research Foundation, securing financial resources and overseeing grants management, and helping execute NADO’s Annual Training Conference each year.

Laurie holds a bachelor’s in public affairs and government from Mount Vernon College and a master’s in health services administration from The George Washington University. Prior to NADO, Laurie spent time as a Field Specialist and an Eagle Staff Fund Director at First Nations Development Institute.

When she’s taking a rare reprieve from her NADO work, Laurie enjoys traveling domestically and internationally to visit friends and family.

Jamie McCormick joined the NADO team as a Policy Fellow first in 2019, then moved into her current role as Legislative Associate in 2021. As Legislative Associate, Jamie keeps NADO members apprised of any policy and regulatory issues and communicates NADO’s policy priorities to federal stakeholders and partner organizations. She is also the first stop for members with inquiries on policy issues. The planning and execution of NADO & DDAA’s annual Washington Conference is also managed by Jamie.

Jamie holds a dual bachelor’s in political science and international relations from The State University of New York College at Geneseo and a master’s in international development studies from The George Washington University. In addition to her roles at NADO, Jamie also worked as a Legislative Assistant for the Northeastern Retail Lumber Association.

Outside of her NADO work, Jamie is an active volunteer with the VOLO Kids Foundation and a fundraiser for YMCA youth programs. She is also NADO’s resident baker regularly providing treats for those in NADO’s D.C. office. Traveling, taking her pup on walks, and hiking in the northeast keep Jamie busy. 

Brett Schwartz began at NADO in 2012 as a Research Fellow after earning his J.D. from the University of Baltimore School of Law. The following year, he was promoted to Program Manager and has now been leading as an Associate Director since 2018. Brett is responsible for managing NADO’s Economic Development District Community of Practice (EDD CoP), as well as researching and monitoring the latest trends in regional economic development and resilience, including best practices for the Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS). With more than a decade of experience on the NADO team, Brett is a dynamic relationship builder helping connect and build capacity among the national network of regional development organizations.

Brett also holds a bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University and a master’s from Trinity College Dublin, as well as a certificate in mediation training. He’s a member of Catalyst Grantmakers of San Diego and Imperial Counties and was a participant in the 2021-22 Field Trips to the Future Cohort.

Brett is one of NADO’s West Coast team members residing in San Diego, CA where he enjoys spending time outdoors, attending concerts and festivals, and soaking up life as a parent of two young children.  

Communications Manager Katie Allison joined the team in 2023 to lead the strategic communication efforts of NADO. Katie creates and develops print and online materials, communicates NADO’s updates to members via weekly emails, and maintains content for and NADO’s social media channels. She also works with different departments to generate new ideas and strategies to effectively describe and promote the important work NADO is doing for EDDs and RDOs across the country.

An experienced nonprofit communications professional, Katie has worked for organizations in western North Carolina for nearly a decade. She holds a bachelor’s in communications from Wingate University where she was a four-year student athlete. Katie has also completed Vision Henderson County, a comprehensive leadership development program that promotes informed and committed civic volunteerism.

Katie stays busy trying to keep up with her two young sons whom she enjoys exploring the Blue Ridge Mountains with. Traveling to new and favorite places and cheering on the Atlanta Braves are some of her family’s favorite pastimes.

Senior Program Manager Ciara Ristig has been a member of the NADO team since 2021, and helps with NADO’s EDD Community of Practice, EDD staff capacity building and other grants on a range of subjects, including equity and solar energy. Before NADO, Ciara worked as a Planner for the County of Santa Barbara and an Assistant Project Manager for REM Consult. Ciara holds a bachelor’s in urban studies and French from Bryn Mawr and a master’s in urban studies from Ecole d’Urbanisme de Paris.

When she’s not traveling, you can find her outrigger paddling and serving on the board of the Blue Sky Center in New Cuyama, CA, near her home base of Santa Barbara.

Carrie Kissel has been a member of the NADO team since 2005 when she began as a Research Fellow. She later moved into the roles of Program Manager in 2006, and then Associate Director in 2011. Carrie holds a bachelor’s in anthropology from Ball State University and a master’s in public anthropology from American University. As Associate Director, Carrie oversees NADO’s work in rural transportation and rural wealth creation. She provides technical assistance and support to rural regions on transportation and economic development issues and develops training and peer exchange events on transportation issues and rural wealth creation as an economic development strategy.

Carrie is a member of the Transportation Research Board (TRB) and secretary of TRB’s Rural Transportation Issues Coordinating Council. She is also a member of the American Anthropological Association and the National Association for the Practice of Anthropology.

Reading, gardening, hiking, and kayaking are a few of Carrie’s hobbies, and she organizes and facilitates a DEI/social justice-focused book club in her community.

Melissa Levy has worked at NADO as a Regional Development Researcher since February 2023 and is the Principal Consultant at her own firm specializing in wealth-based economic development consulting. With a career spanning nearly 30 years, Melissa brings a breadth of knowledge to her role as a Regional Development Researcher. Melissa provides in-depth research, coaching, and training on regional economic resilience, rural wealth creation strategies, and economic development.

Melissa is a North American Food Systems Network trained AgriCluster Resilience and Expansion (ACRE) facilitator and a WealthWorks coach, facilitator, and trainer. In addition to her professional work, Melissa serves on the Vermont Urban and Community Forestry Council, on the board of the Hinesburg Community Resource Center, and on the Hinesburg Economic Development Committee.

A true outdoorswoman, Melissa enjoys cross country and downhill skiing, paddleboarding, hiking, biking, and kayaking, as well as yoga, and teaching Tai Chi.

Program Manager Krishna Kunapareddy began her role with NADO in February of 2023 after 14 years of service at Boonslick Regional Planning Commission in Missouri. Krishna manages NADO Research Foundation’s Planning and Environmental Linkages and Center for Environmental Excellence projects. In addition to researching and writing, Krishna also conducts virtual workshops on innovative tools and techniques related to transportation planning.

She holds an undergraduate degree from Andhra University and a master’s from JNT University in India, as well as a master’s in city and regional planning from the University of Texas at Arlington. Krishna is also a certified Smart Cities Academy Practitioner and holds the Location Advantage certificate from geographic information system software company ESRI.

In her spare time, Krishna volunteers with Mentors4College helping high schoolers better plan for their post-high school paths. She is also a dedicated advocate for documented H4 Dreamers.

Krystal DeLeon joined the NADO team in October of 2020 as Database & Grants Manger, but in January of 2022 transitioned to her current role as Operations Manager. Krystal keeps NADO running through behind the scenes work of invoicing, solving any database issues that may arise, producing membership reports, and much more. Her organizational skills and thorough knowledge help the NADO team operate more efficiently across all departments.

Prior to NADO, Krystal was the Conference Services Coordinator for State Services Organization. She is a Certified Meeting Professional (CMP), a licensed realtor, and holds a bachelor’s in psychology from Liberty University. When she’s not keeping NADO’s operations in order, Krystal enjoys running and rock climbing, and adventuring with her husband and son.

Senior Program Manager Bret Allphin joined NADO in April of 2022 bringing with him a wealth of knowledge after a 20-year career with Buckeye Hills Regional Council in Marietta, Ohio. In addition to his bachelor’s in political science and master’s in public affairs, Bret is licensed Geographical Information Systems Professional (GISP). He is NADO’s go-to team member for all things mapping while also supporting members with transportation and economic development technical assistance services.

An avid sports aficionado and former collegiate athlete, Bret enjoys cheering on his Cincinnati Reds, hitting the trails on his mountain bike, and improving his golf game whenever possible. Bret is an involved community member in Marietta dedicating much of his spare time to serving on local nonprofit boards.

Contact Karron Grant

Applications cannot be saved and returned to at a later time. It is recommended you compile all of your information in advance in a word processor and cut and paste into the application below.

2023 Impact Awards

The primary applicant must be a NADO member. Project partners, both NADO and non-members, can be recognized under "Project Partners" below.

Primary Project Contact:
This person will be the designated point of contact for all future awards-related correspondence.

Organization Address

Project Location (if different from Organization Address)

Executive Director

Additional Organizational Information
Please upload your organization's logo which will be included on the winning project award certificate.

Project Information
This title will be printed on the award certificate for winning projects and in all 2022 NADO Impact Award materials and cannot be changed.

Project Summary & Questions
Please craft clear, thoughtful, and engaging responses to the following questions. Use the following sections to tell us how your project has made an impact, such as its use of creative funding mechanisms, efforts to create efficiencies or reduce costs, unique partnership models, and emphasis on building resilience and/or enhancing your region's quality of life.

For award-winning projects, the information provided below may be used verbatim to inform project descriptions that will be published in the 2023 NADO Impact Awards materials and included on the NADO website.

Please submit at least one photo showing your project in action. Please keep file size to a minimum (<2Mb) and use JPEG format. If uploading multiple files, ZIP files prior to submitting. If you have trouble uploading images they can be directly emailed to Brett Schwartz at [email protected]. Include the project title they correspond to in the subject line of your email.

Note: Submitted photos may be used in NADO Impact Awards materials and in other NADO published materials with credit to your organization. Please also consider submitting photos for NADO's 2023 Photo Contest, which will be held this summer.

Your application is not submitted until you are directed to a confirmation page. If you have any questions or are unsure if your application has been submitted, please contact Brett Schwartz at [email protected]

Contact Melissa Levy

Contact Krishna Kunapareddy

Contact Andrew Coker

Contact Lara Gale

Contact Katie Allison

Contact Jack Morgan

Content Questions Form

Registration Questions Form

Hotel Questions Form

New Speaker Inquiry

Job Listing Inquiry

Joe McKinney serves as Executive Director of the National Association of Development Organizations (NADO). Headquartered in Washington DC, NADO provides advocacy, education, research, and training for the nation’s 500+ regional planning and development organizations.

Joe has thirty-one years of experience having served in city, county, regional, national association, and government management since 1991. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Public Policy Analysis from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and is a candidate for a master’s degree in Public Administration from UNC-Chapel Hill.

McKinney has provided congressional testimony on numerous occasions regarding the importance of regional development organizations in helping shape the nation’s economic growth. He is nationally recognized for promoting innovative solutions in areas such as planning and economic development, workforce development, transportation and transit, and aging services.

Contact Danny Tomares

Contact Dion Thompson-Davoli

Contact Ciara Ristig

Contact Bret Allphin

Contact Brett Schwartz

Contact Carrie Kissel

Contact Scott Brown

Contact Jamie McCormick

Contact Joe McKinney

Contact Krystal De Leon

Contact Brittany Salazar

Contact Laurie Thompson

Contact Mirielle Burgoyne