Congratulations to the 2020 NADO Photo Contest Winners

Congratulations to the 2020 NADO Photo Contest winners and runners-up!  This year, nearly 120 images were submitted from members across the country that demonstrated what makes their regions great places to live, work, and play.  Images were judged in five categories:  “Strengthening the Built and Natural Environments,” “Building Vibrant Places,” “Investing in Our Regional Economy,” “Sustaining Our Communities,” and “COVID-19 Response & Recovery.”  A “People’s Choice” winner was also chosen online by the public via our Facebook page where over 500 votes were cast.

Thanks to all of our members who participated this year and congratulations again to our winners!  Remember, it’s never too early to start snapping creative photos for next year’s contest.   

To view all of the photos that were submitted in this year’s contest, click here.  Please direct any questions to Brett Schwartz at [email protected].


Building Vibrant Places

Organization:  Arrowhead Regional Development Corporation (MN)  

The Story:  

Looking west on Superior Street in downtown Duluth, Minnesota, this photo was taken in February 2020 during Zeitgeist Community’s Winter Bike Week: Bites & Bikes Tour. Duluth has been a Bicycle-Friendly Community since 2013, but the community continues to improve the bicycle and pedestrian networks in the city that won Outside Magazine’s “Best Outdoor City” bragging rights in 2014. Winter Bike Week seeks to showcase that people want and need to bike and walk for transportation and recreation all months of the year.

The “Bites & Bikes Tour” event paired a slow roll three-mile bike ride from Duluth’s Downtown to its new craft district Lincoln Park, where a local cidery hosted a catered lunch by a local restaurant. The event included a speaker from the Duluth-Superior Metropolitan Interstate Council (a division of the Arrowhead Regional Development Commission), which also helped promote the family-friendly, educational, and fun activities. Winter Bike Week connected people to businesses and local public resources while informing participants about future developments and calls to action for improving access in Duluth’s non-motorized transportation network.

Investing in Our Regional Economy

Organization:  Alamo Area Council of Governments (TX)

The Story:   

Pictured is Diane Rath, AACOG Executive Director, and Brigadier General Laura Lenderman, Commander of the 502d Air Base Wing and Joint Base San Antonio (JBSA), signing the first ever Blanket Intergovernmental Support Agreement (IGSA) in the history of the United States Air Force. This new agreement will afford JBSA the opportunity to bring requirements they would normally fill through traditional federal contracting actions to AACOG; AACOG and its member governments could then fulfill these requirements through their own capabilities and local contractors.  This streamlines the procurement process, which is also expected to save millions of dollars for JBSA as the agreement matures.

Only one other Blanket IGSA exists, between the United States Army and the Presidio of Monterey Services Agency in Monterey, California.  This relationship has been in place for several decades, and according to the Army Audit Agency, saves the Presidio of Monterey an annual 22% in operation support costs.  The new AACOG-JBSA agreement takes this type of relationship and creates an opportunity for AACOG and its 70 member governments throughout the 13-county region.

Sustaining Our Communities

Organization:  River Valley Regional Commission (GA)

The Story:

Seniors from the Muscogee County area participate in a fresh produce service offered by the River Valley Regional Commission (RVRC).  One of the many roles that the RVRC plays in the 16-county region it serves is assisting the aging and disabled population through the programs and services provided by its specialized department, the Area Agency on Aging. One of the programs, the Senior’s Farmers’ Market, creates opportunities for seniors to buy fresh, local produce through a voucher program that is possible thanks to partnerships with the Department of Public Health, USDA, and local farmers. Through this program, the Area Agency on Aging provides hundreds of seniors in the region free access to local produce.

Strengthening the Built and Natural Environments

Organization:  Region Nine Development Commission (MN)

The Story: 

This photo was taken in Rasmussen Park off of the Red Jacket Trail in Mankato, MN. The Red Jacket Trail runs from Mankato to Rapidan, MN and follows a former railroad track that ran near the Blue Earth River and crosses the Le Sueur River.  Region Nine Development Commission wrote in support of the City of Mankato’s and Blue Earth County’s joint application to the Greater Minnesota Regional Parks and Trails Commission for Regional Designation of the Red Jacket Trail. This designation has the potential to assist both the Mankato and North Mankato area with continued community growth as well as offer more resources for maintenance and future trails connections.

COVID-19 Response & Recovery

Organization:  Top of Alabama Regional Council of Governments

The Story:

This photo, taken at the Owens Senior Center in Limestone County, Alabama, captures the spirit of community, volunteerism, and strong partnerships between government, non-profit, and private sectors in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  When the Top of Alabama Regional Council of Governments in Huntsville, Alabama, was presented with the opportunity to provide food boxes to senior citizens in its five-county region, the agency sprang into action by coordinating efforts with each Council on Aging in DeKalb, Jackson, Limestone, Madison, and Marshall Counties.  As a result, 20,440 food boxes containing fresh meat, vegetables, fruits, cheeses, and other items were given to seniors throughout the summer months of 2020.

Volunteers from local civic organizations and churches assisted staff in handing out boxes weekly while wearing masks and practicing social distancing.  GA Foods, Alabama’s Senior Services Meals Program vendor, received this grant from the USDA Farm to Families Program.  The Alabama Department of Senior Services (ADSS) provided assistance in the coordination of this project with the Top of Alabama Regional Council of Governments.

People’s Choice

Organization:  Santee-Lynches Regional Council of Governments (SC)

The Story: 

With funding received from the CARES Act, Santee-Lynches Regional Council of Governments staff and board members packed 1,500 Cares Packages with masks, hand sanitizer, bathroom tissue, and sanitizing wipes for delivery to senior citizens in its four county region.  The packages were made possible due to the fact the COG secured a PPE distributor at the beginning of the pandemic when supplies were not readily available. The CARES Packages was an idea generated within the agency to find a creative way to keep local seniors safe during the pandemic. 


Building Vibrant Places

Organization:  Northwest New Mexico Council of Governments  

The Story:

This mural is on the back of the Northwest New Mexico Council of Governments headquarters in an alleyway that is under a major transformation from an eyesore to a vibrant place.  To be part of that change, the COG partnered with the Gallup MainStreet Arts & Cultural District and local Diné artist Marina Eskeets to develop this mural entitled “Óódááł | Everyone Moving Forward,” which depicts sheepherding as a traditional way of life and the storytelling that embodies that upbringing – with an eye to building a more resilient future.

Much more than a mural project, Marina Eskeets involved local high school art students, held several talks both in person and digitally, and collected sheepherding stories from area elders.  The entire COG staff was involved in prepping the wall for the artist, which proved to be a great team building exercise and also connected the COG’s work to the community it serves.  This project is part of the City of Gallup’s Alleyway Upgrade Program that aims to convert unappealing downtown alleyways into community portals that relocate all utilities sub-surface to allow for a safe and accessible pedestrian and bike-friendly experience that is anchored amongst big wall murals and design context amenities for all people.  The project reinforces the theme of everyone moving forward and creating vibrant and inclusive places.

Investing in Our Regional Economy

Organization:  Kerr-Tar Regional Council of Governments (NC)

The Story:

What happens when a local economy has access to a regional airport, flight instructors, and a regional community college? The result is an innovative approach to teach students how to properly and legally fly drones.  This photo represents a new, creative, and innovative partnership in teaching the art and technical skill of flying unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), better known as drones. Many people buy a drone, but find out afterward they’ve bought the wrong kind of machine for their use, or find the UAV almost impossible to control in a useful way.

The Vance-Granville Community College UAV program, in conjunction with the Triangle North Executive Airport and Total Flight Solutions professionals, now offer classes to help people learn to fly a UAV. It is a perfect pre-purchase drone class. These classes include a lot of hands-on time with a GPS-controlled, geo-fenced UAV. Participants use the school’s equipment to learn about all the different types of equipment and how to fly them properly, and use the airport’s space for flight practice. In conjunction with these flight control classes, Total Flight Solutions offer their professional preparation for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Part 107 Commercial Pilot examination. All but the very smallest of drones require this license to fly.  The Kerr-Tar Regional Council of Governments works closely with Franklin County Economic Development to promote the Triangle North Executive Park and Executive Airport for economic and workforce development in the region.  

Sustaining Our Communities

Organization:  Buckeye Hills Regional Council (OH)

The Story:  

Stacy Family Farm, in Marietta, Ohio, is among 45 local producers to participate in the Buckeye Hills Regional Council Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP). The SFMNP is a collaboration between the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Ohio Department of Aging to allow income-eligible seniors the opportunity to enjoy locally grown fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs, and honey. Participants receive special coupons worth $50 to buy produce from authorized, participating farmers who sell at farmers markets or roadside stands, May through October. In 2020, more than 1,900 southeast Ohio seniors were able to purchase produce through the program.

Strengthening the Built and Natural Environments

Organization:  Greater Egypt Regional Planning and Development Commission (IL)

The Story:  

Southern Illinois is home to some of the most aesthetically pleasing lakes in the country. With an abundance of water bodies, water quality is a major concern. This photo was taken in 2020 at the Kinkaid Lake spillway utilizing unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) in Jackson County, Illinois. While Kinkaid Lake serves as a recreational destination for many anglers and outdoor enthusiasts, its main purpose is to supply water to municipalities in southern Illinois.
The Environmental Department at Greater Egypt is currently developing a watershed-based plan for the lake and surrounding watershed. These plans help to restore water quality in impaired waterbodies through a stakeholder-driven process. Once a watershed-based plan is approved by the Environmental Protection Agency, funding becomes available for many management measures including shoreline stabilization and infrastructure enhancements.

COVID-19 Response & Recovery

Organization:  Eastern Maine Development Corporation

The Story:

In this photo, Eastern Maine Development Corporation (EMDC) CEO Lee Umphrey talks with EMDC’s new Community and Business Services team. “In many ways the blending of business and community development makes the Community and Business Services department the core of our organization. We’re combining to serve municipalities and small businesses together alongside our workforce development, business lending, and government contracting programs,” says Umphrey.  The formation of this new team brings together team leader Dr. Vicki Rusbult, Director of Business and Community Development; Michael Elliott, Director of Economic Development for the Katahdin Region; Ryan Grindle, Regional Development Coordinator; and Cody Gilks, DBE Supportive Services Specialist.

The first major task of this team was to provide direct support to businesses and non-profits applying for funding through Maine’s Economic Grant Recovery Program. Funded by the CARES Act and created by Governor Janet Mills and the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development, the program helps those impacted by COVID-19. In response to the pandemic, EMDC was nimble in shifting to distance communication by offering services, trainings, and technical support virtually. As a result, businesses, communities and people – including those in rural areas of Maine – have quick access to EMDC’s high-level of direct services.


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