5 Q with Wigner

Scott Hanson, MPA, MSP, AICP blends land use and comprehensive planning expertise with a passion for place-making and multi-modal corridor design. He has over two decades of experience working with state and local governments in these capacities, and through this experience, has become a champion of good community planning, helping municipalities to understand how the critical step of planning positively impacts budgeting for capital improvements, future economic development, and overall community character. His work has earned accolades including the 2020 Outstanding Plan Award, granted by the American Planning Association Missouri Chapter for the Marshfield, MO, Community Growth Plan. Scott is past president of the St. Louis Metro Section of the Missouri Chapter of the American Planning Association; an active member of the American Planning Association – Illinois Chapter; as well as an active member of CMT’s Quality of Life Community of Practice. Scott also serves as a presenter for the University of Missouri–St. Louis Chancellor’s Certificate in Planning & Zoning course. He holds master’s degrees in urban/regional planning and public administration from Florida State University. Scott joined CMT in 2017 and works out of our downtown St. Louis office.

What drew you to the discipline of planning?

I initially went to graduate school for public administration, and while I was there, I discovered planning and ultimately pursued dual degrees. I hear this a lot from colleagues, as well – maybe they didn’t set out to be planners, but once they discovered the field, they realized how fun it is.

I’ve always liked creating space, and urban planning does that on a large scale. I like the opportunity to create a livable place where people can gather as a community.

How has your field evolved since the beginning of your career, and where do you see it trending in the future?

Over time, I’ve watched the field mature, become increasingly professionalized, and become more collaborative.

You know the adage “It takes a village”? Usually, it is used in reference to raising a child, but I think it applies equally to the field of planning and the practice of creating community. The more input you have at the table, the more successful the outcome will be.

To do well in the field, one must be able to communicate effectively with colleagues in like-minded professions such as engineering and architecture. But it doesn’t stop there.

Take, for instance, the role of a fire chief in the planning process. Their perspective can be vital to community decision-making – ensuring that there are adequate fire hydrants around town and that firefighters and other emergency responders have streets wide enough to park their trucks on in the case of an emergency.

Beyond the fire chief, interdisciplinary teams can also include everyone from the city administrator, the parks director, and the county planning department, to the Chamber of Commerce, the police department, and the city arborist. You need that variety of professional perspective and input to create the best design for each community.

That ability for planners to collaborate is important today, and I imagine it will only continue to become more vital in the future.

How does your experience as a city planner inform your work today at CMT?

I’ve been fortunate to have previously worked on staff as a planner for two progressive communities: Columbia, MO, and Edwardsville, IL. Both are quickly growing college towns that are home to many historic structures. During my time with these communities, I got a lot of great experience with almost everything you can imagine for a Midwest planner regarding development: I had a lot of great opportunities to do historic preservation, redevelopment, and new development. I also got to hear from and understand the perspectives of everybody from the city engineer, to the fire chief, to the Chamber of Commerce and other entities.

So bringing that experience, in tandem with my public administration and urban planning degrees, to CMT and our clients allows me to put myself in the shoes of, say, the city administrator and be able to think through, “What are the political challenges of this project?” Or I can step into the shoes of the zoning administrator and imagine, “How do I right-size architectural design guidelines for a community with a zoning staff of one?”

Since joining CMT, I’ve been able to work closely with smaller communities that do not have a full-time planner. I’m proud to provide them with solutions that are right-sized for their communities and delivered at a high level of service.

What is your approach to building a relationship with a client?

One of the first things I always do is ask and listen: “What are your challenges?” “How do you assess those challenges in your community?” “How are you looking to me to support you?” Understanding questions of this nature is always vital to building a lasting relationship with a client.

From there, I continue building on that relationship by developing solutions that help them implement their vision, whether it’s an ordinance, a plan of action, or some other tool.

What do you value most about CMT’s company culture?

I appreciate the company’s diversity of expertise and the culture of collaboration across disciplines. For instance, when a client has an engineering-level infrastructure question, I love being able to tell them that while I may not have an immediate answer for them, I know dozens of engineers who can help.

That’s a huge value-add to our clients: While I may be their go-to contact, they also know a lot of really sharp people are backing me up and that I can always turn to them. Our clients don’t always have someplace else to go for those answers, and it means a lot that I can send a quick e-mail over to folks like Dennis Denby, Ron Leible, Steve Prange, or Matt DeMoss; get a great answer from them; and then clients can make well-informed decisions and move on to whatever it is they’re tackling next.

This culture of cross-disciplinary collaboration also extends to the firm’s Quality of Life Community of Practice, of which I’m an active member. Though we’re in all different parts of the United States, we’re all able to come together on Teams or via e-mail and say, “Hey, I have this challenge here – how have you all addressed it?” Being able to get that input from someone with an environmental perspective or an engineering perspective is invaluable – it provides a great sense of camaraderie and instills a lot of pride to work alongside so many dedicated individuals who are all eager to find the best answers for our clients and their communities.