What is RPO America?

RPO America is a program affiliate of NADO that serves as the national professional network for regional, rural, and small metro transportation professionals. It was established in 2006 by the NADO Board of Directors.

RPO America is both a resource for regional transportation practitioners in rural and small metro places, and it’s also an opportunity for these practitioners to have a say in the shaping of national transportation priorities.

RPO America’s core activity areas are to:

  • Support peer learning and interaction, which occurs through a national in-person conference, periodic virtual peer exchanges, and an online forum for member-to-member interaction
  • Track federal policy and national-level issues and share information with stakeholders, which occurs through newsletter updates, direct emails, and other communications
  • Tell the story of regional, rural and small metro transportation organizations and priority issues, which occurs through ongoing communication with members as well as relationship building with other national partners
  • Advise NADO and its leadership, membership, and management on matters related to rural transportation planning and development, such as developing policy priorities and providing regular feedback on issues of importance to NADO members and their state and local partners



Who is eligible to be a member of RPO America?

All NADO members are also members of NADO’s program affiliate RPO America. This includes NADO Standard Members, which are multijurisdictional regional planning and economic development organizations, and NADO Affiliate Members, representing any other type of entity such as a Tribal government, local government, state agency, standalone RTPO or MPO (not housed within a larger multipurpose organization), nonprofit, private sector firm, or any other entity with an interest in regional and rural development issues.

Any of these types of NADO members can designate contacts to receive RPO America information and periodic members-only communications from NADO.

If your organization is not a member of NADO, you can still sign up to receive some information through our free Rural Transportation Newsletter by selecting the option for transportation communications in our newsletter signup form.

Does an organization have to pay dues to participate in RPO America?

There are no additional member dues required to participate in RPO America, beyond the dues an organization already pays to be a member of NADO. However, many organizations also support NADO’s work in transportation through a paid RPO America subscription.

These special contributions from RDOs and their partners help support the efforts of NADO, the NADO Research Foundation, and RPO America to provide research and capacity-building efforts to support the national network of RTPOs and their partners and to track federal policy and funding.

RPO America subscriptions are available at three levels: Bronze ($500), Silver ($1,000), and Gold ($1,500). Interested in learning more or adding a subscription? Complete the interest form below.

What are the benefits of participating in RPO America?

Although each organization that chooses to support RPO America typically pays just a few hundred or a thousand dollars, these contributions add up. The most significant benefit for organizations that contribute to RPO America is the additional capacity at NADO that they are supporting, so that federal policy and national issues continue to be tracked and shared with NADO’s network.

RPO America members have the opportunity to discuss transportation issues, policies, and priorities with NADO staff and consultant support. This helps NADO to set an agenda related to transportation policy that is grounded in the experience of rural and small metro transportation professionals and stakeholders. It is also an opportunity for practitioners to gain insights into federal transportation and infrastructure laws, funding programs, agencies, and processes.

Supporters who contribute financially to RPO America receive a discounted registration price to NADO’s National Regional Transportation Conference, typically held annually. This support also allows NADO staff and partners to provide periodic virtual peer exchanges that are open to all NADO members.

Legislative Priorities

During 2023-2024, members of the National RPO Council of Peers and other NADO member participants in RPO America met with NADO staff, consultants, and leadership to develop a set of national transportation priorities. These priorities focus on improvements to Regional Planning funding and processes, the Federal Aid process, Rural Safety, and Rural Transit.

These priorities will be updated over time as policy and funding changes and as the rural and small metropolitan transportation context changes. Learn more about the priorities here.

When/where is NADO’s transportation conference?

NADO typically holds the National Regional Transportation Conference each year during the summer. In 2024, the conference is occurring July 29-August 1 in Greenville, South Carolina. Learn more here. The conference will include the business meeting of RPO America and its leadership, the National RPO Council of Peers, along with presentations and workshops led by regional planning peers and other subject matter experts.

How often do RPO members meet?

The RPO America membership meets in-person once a year during the National Regional Transportation Conference. The organization also holds periodic virtual peer exchanges to allow for additional engagement among practitioners between in-person meetings.

The National RPO Council of Peers also meets at the National Regional Transportation Conference. The RPO Council also typically meets online approximately three more times per year. Other events, such as working groups or focus groups, allow for RPO Council members and other RPO America members to engage between these periodic meetings.

RPO America’s officers typically meet monthly to discuss current issues in transportation.

What is the National RPO Council of Peers?

The National RPO Council of Peers, also called the RPO Council, is the peer leadership group of RPO America. It has broad-based representation from around the United States, similar to the NADO Board of Directors. However, the RPO Council is an advisory body that provides information and assistance to the NADO Board and NADO staff, while the NADO Board of Directors is a decision-making body that oversees NADO and its member services.

Most participants of the RPO Council are staff working on transportation and related issues at regional development organizations (RDOs), as the core NADO audience. However, other types of stakeholders sometimes also serve on the council, including state department of transportation staff (particularly transportation planning or transit staff) or representatives of agencies that provide or are engaged in transportation.

RPO Council members are nominated by the NADO Board of Directors and appointed by the NADO President for two-year terms. During their term, RPO Council members typically engage with NADO leadership and staff around priority transportation issues.

How can I be on the Council of Peers? 

Members of NADO’s Board of Directors nominate practitioners, typically from their own state or a neighboring state, for the National RPO Council of Peers. Then, the NADO President appoints nominees to serve on the council. The two-year terms begin and end in conjunction with the National Regional Transportation Conference in even-numbered years. Up to two representatives per state can be nominated to participate in the National RPO Council of Peers.

If you would like to be considered for a future nomination, please contact a member of the NADO Board of Directors that represents your state or a neighboring state, or email the NADO team at [email protected].

What is my role as a member of NADO and RPO America if I do not serve on the RPO Council?

NADO welcomes all of our members to participate in RPO America! Please fill out this contact information form to receive members-only communications and invitations to provide input on transportation issues and priorities. In the form, you can let NADO know if there are ways you’d like to engage with peers and with staff, such as serving as a future conference or webinar speaker or assisting with other efforts. In addition, NADO periodically holds virtual peer exchanges and meetings where you can share your experiences in a peer learning environment or provide input on federal, state, local, or Tribal transportation programs and issues.

What are Rural/Regional Transportation Planning Organizations?

Regional Transportation Planning Organizations (RTPOs) generally operate in non-metropolitan areas to conduct outreach to the public and local officials and provide transportation planning support under contract to state departments of transportation (DOTs). Sometimes, they are also called Rural Planning Organizations (RPOs), and some states may refer to them as Regional Planning Affiliations, Regional Transportation Planning Agencies, or simply as general purpose Councils of Governments or Regional Planning Commissions who have a rural transportation planning program. They generally exist to assist state DOTs with completing their requirements for statewide planning in rural areas and to enhance the outreach conducted to local officials and the public. Learn more about RTPOs here.

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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 nado.org 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.

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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]

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Registration Questions Form

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New Speaker Inquiry

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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.

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