Kim Wheeler: Reality-Based Planning in Rural America

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River with railroad tracks beside along trees and hills with a partly cloudy sky.

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The implementation of planning principles and strategies has a bit of a different flavor in the small towns and rural regions of America.  Resources, capacity, politics, and partnerships are the name of the game to plan the possible.  Creating implementable plans that achieve lasting impact on the economy and quality of life happen when local officials and citizens engage to focus on the real and relevant issues, recruit partners, and create capacity and commitment to implement.  Many dynamics threaten the ability to realize visions set forth in planning efforts.  Examples from Central Pennsylvania will shed some light on how to succeed with a reality-based planning method to ensure great things can be accomplished.


Kim Wheeler, AICP, MRP '04, is the Executive Director of SEDA Council of Governments in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania.  SEDA-COG is a regional community and economic development agency serving 11 counties in Central Pennsylvania. Wheeler took the helm at SEDA-COG in January of 2021.

Wheeler has worked at every level of government in Pennsylvania over the last 19 years and brings expertise in both local and state government arenas, as well as in urban and regional planning, strategic planning, and local government policy development. Her tenure in central Pennsylvania has been characterized by public-private partnership building, developing innovative initiatives, providing local government leadership, and helping communities craft funding strategies and plans that lead to impactful results for the long term.

She was the Special Projects Coordinator and Grants Manager for the Borough of Lewisburg prior to returning to SEDA-COG and after spending 14 years in various other governmental positions throughout the region.

She was the Deputy Director of Planning at the County of Lycoming for nearly seven years and she was the Local Government Policy Specialist and North-Central Region Community Planner for the state Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) prior to that. 

She earned her Master of Regional Planning from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, and her Bachelor of Landscape Architecture from SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse, New York. She earned her planning certification from the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) in 2007.


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