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IAC > Workshops > Creating Vibrant Communities 2011 Speakers Creating Vibrant Communities 2011 Speakers

Steve Doolittle

Steve DoolittleSteve Doolittle has spent over 21 years working in municipal government, both for the City of Paducah and the McCracken County government. Doolittle served as Paducah's City Planner years before becoming County Administrator in 2000. In that time, he was responsible for comprehensive planning, zoning, development management, and neighborhood development.

During his tenure with the city, Mr. Doolittle developed the City guidance policies and procedures, which established the foundation for the city’s growth. In one of his first initiatives in the redevelopment of the historic downtown area, Doolittle led the city through the Kentucky Renaissance City designation, making Paducah one of four cities in the state to receive top gold status His innovative strategies for both urban design and building projects utilizing state, federal and private dollars has garnered over $100M in investment in the downtown district. The Artist Relocation Program, which Doolittle has overseen, has experienced over $35M in private development growth in a 25-square block area. This is particularly impressive given that the neighborhood was badly decayed by blight, crime, and drugs, and was extremely inhospitable and within just nine years, has become one of the most desirable neighborhoods in the City.

Doolittle is also the Executive Director of the Paducah Riverfront Development Authority which manages capital improvements, master planning and implementation, and development of a pivotal new hotel complex.

Doolittle has degrees from both the University of North Dakota and Southern Illinois University.

Elaine Fisher

Elaine FisherMs. Fisher retired from her position as Special Projects Director, Building Better Communities, in June 2010. Prior to that position, she served as the first Director of Ball State University's Office of Building Better Communities (BBC).  BBC is a legislatively supported, university-wide initiative that links the human and technical resources of the university with the development needs of Indiana communities. BBC conducts the Indiana Economic Development Course (EDC), one of 29 such programs offered nationally and accredited by the International Economic Development Council (IEDC) and also delivers customized, local and regional programs and consulting services. BBC also compiled and maintains the Toolbox Guide to Development Funds, a comprehensive listing of Indiana community & economic development funding programs.

Elaine has designed and administered strategic planning processes in over 30 Indiana communities. She served as project manager for the Lt. Governor’s Jobs Council Project, an assessment of Indiana’s economic development policies and programs and in early 2005, completed four regional economic development plans as a member of an Indiana Regional and State Economic Development planning team. She also conducted the first ever, accredited Economic Development Course (EDC) in New Zealand and in 2001 conducted the Executive Economic Development Institute (EEDI) in partnership with the Ministry of Economic Development, Economic Development New Zealand, Industry New Zealand, Trade New Zealand and the City of Napier.

Prior to joining BBC, Ms. Fisher was Associate Director of the Center for Entrepreneurial Resources where she designed and delivered customized training and consulting services to Indiana businesses.

Elaine graduated Magna Cum Laude from Ball State University, with a degree in Management/Human Resource Development and is a graduate of the Economic Development Institute (EDI), University of Oklahoma.  She has served on the Boards of Directors of the American Economic Development Council (AEDC), the Mid-America Economic Development Council (MAEDC), and the Indiana Economic Development Association (IEDA).   

In 2009 Ms. Fisher received the Distinguished Hoosier Award.   She received the inaugural Excellence in Leadership Award from the Indiana Economic Development Association in 1999 and has twice received the University of Continuing Education Association (UCEA) Award for Excellence in Economic and Community Development Education.   

Ms. Fisher is a frequent speaker at community and economic development workshops and conferences and as a private consultant provides customized community economic development services to Indiana communities and development related organizations.                               

Sara Peterson, JD

Sara Peterson, JDSara is a management consultant to nonprofits,government, foundations, and community groups. As such, she specializes in practical governance and board development, a wide range of planning and facilitation, evaluation, and organizational assessments.

With more than twelve years of practice she has assisted over 100 organizations from small, all-volunteer to multi-billion-dollar entities. Geographically her portfolio has spanned the United States and included countries in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean.

From 2000 to 2010, Sara worked at LarsonAllen LLP. During that period she led organizational development, planning, program evaluation, and search engagements; made numerous presentations on governance, evaluation and organizational change; managed the firm’s annual nonprofit conference; and managed marketing efforts within the firm’s nonprofit and government consulting group. Sara left the firm in 2010 to set up her own business – guiding clients in strategy, governance, and management.

Prior to her employment with LarsonAllen LLP, Sara’s developed expertise as a funder and an attorney, serving as program officer to the James Ford Bell Foundation in Minnesota and as litigator for the Child Support Recovery Unit in Iowa. At the foundation, she managed a multi-organization collaboration, administered grant programs, and maintained information systems for the philanthropy consulting firm in which the foundation was housed.

Sara’s education includes completion of all course work toward a Master of Arts in public policy from the University of Minnesota Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs with a concentration in nonprofit management. She obtained a juris doctor with high distinction from the University of Iowa College of Law and a Bachelor of Arts in French with a minor in music from the University of Iowa.

Sara’s community service has included the marketing committee of the Charities Review Council, the advisory board of the League of Women Voters of Minneapolis, president of the Humphrey Institute Alumni Board, and secretary for the Textile Center of Minnesota. Currently, Sara is a member of BoardSource, the Democratic Women’s Caucus, the Indiana Coalition for the Arts, the Indiana Evaluators Association, and the International Association for Public Participation (IAP2 USA). She also volunteers with the IAP2 USA governance committee, the Nonprofit Alliance of Monroe County, and the Monroe County Humane Association.

Joyce Sommers

Joyce SommersJoyce Sommers has been on a road paved by chance and determination—a life she tumbled into and took on with a passion that grew deeper as she moved from volunteer to visionary.

Ms. Sommers is president emeritus of the Indianapolis Art Center and served as its president and executive director from 1976 to 2009.  She is the longest-running leader of a major Indianapolis arts organization as well as the first and only woman to head such an entity until the 1980s.

An Indianapolis native, Ms. Sommers is a Broad Ripple High School graduate and attended Indiana University.  She married Jan Sommers in 1956.  Reading Native Son by Richard Wright as a young woman touched her and inspired her to think about racial inequality and social injustices and led to an important chapter in her life.

Ms. Sommers was an active civil rights worker in the 1960s and 1970s and headed up the Indianapolis office for UNICEF in the mid 1970s.

She discovered art at the age of 35 when a friend dragged her to a class at what would become the Indianapolis Art Center and her home for more than 30 years.

After starting as a volunteer with what was then the Indianapolis Art League, she went on to transform the small organization into one the largest community arts centers in the country.  She did it with grit, tenacity and charm.

Ms. Sommers led the drive to build the Indianapolis Art Center and ARTSPARK, both beautifully designed by fellow Living Legend Michael Graves, a striking world-class facility and a beautiful public space that were true community partnerships.

Her early experiences were powerful influences that led to her philosophy—creating partnerships through art with global exchanges and realizing the transformative power of art for those who are challenged physically, mentally or by their socioeconomic situation.  Of all she has accomplished, she is perhaps most proud of her many outreach efforts, including the award-winning ArtReach program, and also created cultural exchanges with Africa, Brazil and China—both of which influence the Art Center’s mission and vision.

A self-described autodidact, she reads deeply and broadly, attended countless hours of symposia, conferences and workshops, and learned on the job and from her many mentors.  Colleagues describe Ms. Sommers as a visionary and relentless, someone who you can’t help but like.  Being high in curiosity and a generalist has served her well.  She is brave and isn’t afraid to take chances.

Named 2001 Fundraising Executive of the Year by the Indiana chapter of the American Society of Fundraising Professionals, Ms. Sommers also received a Torchbearer Award from the Indiana Commission for Women, a Touchstone Award from Girls Inc. and an Arts as an Agent of Change Award from the Martin Luther King Center.  She is a member of Herron Dean’s Advisory Board and has been a member of the Contemporary Art Society study group at the Indianapolis Museum of Art since 1976.  She serves as a Martin Luther King Community Center executive committee member and on the boards for Arts Education Northwest and Arts Indiana magazine.  She is an emeritus member of the Spirit and Place Advisory board and a past president of the Indianapolis Consortium of Arts Administrators.  Indianapolis Business Journal put her on its list of Most Influential Women in 2008.

Since her transition from the Art Center, Ms. Sommers enjoys spending time with her partner of 15 years, Bob Davis, her four children and eight grandchildren and her close friends of more than 25 years—a group that calls themselves the Wasatch Witches.  But she hasn’t stopped.  Her latest passion is to join the public art movement through task forces and to increase the importance of the White River as a cultural artery flowing from Noblesville all the way to the Central Canal.

Andy Vick