Remembering Sam Santell - a champion of regional planning - Metropolitan Planning Council

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Remembering Sam Santell - a champion of regional planning

Sam Santell passed away on April 19, 2006, just days before he was set to travel to San Antonio with his fellow NIPC staff and commissioners to accept a national award for planning.

It is with great sadness that the planning profession has lost one of its leaders.  In just 51 years, Sam Santell had done more to build bridges, improve communities, and work at a regional level than most others have accomplished in far more years of their professional life.

When I was first hired at MPC by then-President Jean Allard, the first trip we took out into the region was to meet with Sam, then director of planning for Kane County, and Phil Bus, who is still director of development for the county.  This duo, along with the leadership of their county board, were taking on the challenge of managing growth from a regional perspective, by working with the county's municipalities on a day-to-day basis.  Quite simply, if you wanted to know what was going on at the ground level, you talked to Phil and Sam.

Just a few weeks ago, and a decade after my first visit to Kane County, Sam was one of the first people I introduced to new Campaign for Sensible Growth Manager Michael Davidson. Only now, we went to see Sam in his new role as the director of planning for the Northeastern Illinois Planning Commission (NIPC).   When Sam learned that Mike and I would also be visiting with Phil a few days later, he wanted to join us too, to show us what was going on in Kane County.  In fact, that had become routine for Sam, a person who quickly filled in the role as bridge-builder, issue expert, and all-around go-to guy to get things done.

Sam's involvement in MPC and the Campaign for Sensible Growth alone were extensive.  He was one of the visionaries for the "Sensible Tools for Healthy Communities" workbook, he co-chaired the technical advisory committee for the soon-to-be-released "Planning 1-2-3" workbook, he served on MPC's Community Building Advisory Board, he was co-chairing an effort with the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus and MPC to better coordinate technical assistance from government and nonprofit providers, and the list goes on and on.

Of course, one of his recent crowning achievements was to coordinate the completion of the 2040 Regional Framework Plan that is being awarded this week as the best plan in the nation by the American Planning Association at its national conference in San Antonio.

Sam was devoted to his family and is survived by his wife, Beth, and his children, Stephen and Megan.  He would often talk about the times he had with his family building a two-story log cabin in Wisconsin, and the education of his children. 

The region owes a big thank you to Sam Santell for the contributions he made in making this area a better place to live, work, and enjoy the outdoors.


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