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A Sad Day for Growth Management in South Florida

John M. DeGrove, the father of growth management in Florida and many other states, recently passed away at age 87. As one of the hundreds of planners, policymakers and attorneys around the state who got their start working with Dr. DeGrove, I can attest that the state and the planning profession have suffered a great loss. A political scientist by training, he was a planner by choice. While he held high ideals, he was a pragmatist, and more than willing to work across party lines and find consensus on solutions to protect and improve the quality of life in Florida. While we can look back from this point and regret what may not have worked as intended, in large part because it was never funded properly by the Florida Legislature, we must not lose sight of what was accomplished under the 1985 Growth Management Act. The state has chosen to move on from Dr. DeGrove’s brand of growth management, but it will always benefit from the many poor decisions averted and wise decisions nurtured under the policies he fathered.

Equally worthy of celebration, beyond his many public contributions being chronicled by newspapers everywhere, are his wit, caring and mentorship. In 1986, I first worked for him as a research assistant at the FAU-FIU Joint Center for Environmental and Urban Problems, and in 1991, as a freshly minted attorney-planner, I returned to serve as an adjunct professor and research associate there. He was a Johnny Appleseed of sorts, planting and nurturing the seeds of the future leaders of this state. No sooner had you settled into working for him than he was mentoring you about your next steps, sincerely desiring to see each person reach their full potential. He was a brilliant, kind and caring man, with high standards and real vision. Along with Nancy Stroud, another John DeGrove protégé, he was a key inspiration for me to attend the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, his alma mater, to receive my planning and law degrees. The skills of facilitation, consensus building and policy development that I observed back then inform my practice and my profession even today.

But I never would have found Dr. DeGrove and my future profession were it not for my sister, Julia Trevarthen. Sadly, at age 51, she succumbed to cancer only a few days before Dr. DeGrove passed on. She served as his personal research assistant and the Joint Center librarian, trying to organize that vast and unruly collection of studies, books, articles, legislative history, and other papers that formed the basis of his writings. She started shortly before I did in 1986, and we worked there together for nearly two years. She also was inspired by Dr. DeGrove to attend the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for her planning degree, and she went on to become a leading planner for the South Florida region for nearly twenty years. On her return to Florida, she served the South Florida Regional Planning Council in many capacities, including assistant director and director of the Institute for Community Collaboration, for over 15 years. She then went on to serve our hometown, the City of Boca Raton, as the Director of Planning, Zoning and Development. We frequently remarked on the influence that Dr. DeGrove had on our lives, careers, and state. Our shared employment at the Joint Center marked the beginning of more than 25 years of sharing not only our family lives, but also our professional lives, a rare privilege. We both have emphasized mentorship in our careers, and attempted to live up to the example set by Dr. DeGrove and pass on what he taught us. Countless others around the state have done the same.

So planning in Florida is diminished this week. It is a time to reflect on lessons learned, recalling what was best about those who have passed on and the contributions they left behind, and envision what the future may bring.

Categories: Land Use & Zoning (Public)Awards & RecognitionsLand Use & Zoning (Private)
Tags: Florida Growth Management ActCommunity Planning ActMunicipal GovernmentSpecial Counsel to Local GovernmentAwards & RecognitionsSusan L. Trevarthen
Author(s): Susan L. Trevarthen