Passing the Torch in New Jersey

Laura TorchioSpring brings a new season for the State Network Project in New Jersey. As you have likely heard, I will be leaving the Safe Routes Partnership this month. But like I welcome the warmer and longer days, I also look forward to new opportunities and stronger partnerships. I am moving onto a program at Montclair State University that still has ties to the SRTS movement. To keep up the momentum that we have built with the State Network Project, we are welcoming Nora Shepard, AICP/PP into the position of our New Jersey Advocacy Organizer. Nora will take over on May 13, 2013.

Nora brings over 30 years of community planning experience and strong partnership building and leadership skills to this role. She has spent the last two years as the Safe Routes to School Coordinator for the Transportation Management Association (TMA) in northern New Jersey called, Meadowlink. Prior to that, Nora was the Supervising Transportation Planner for Monmouth County in New Jersey. Before moving to New Jersey, she spent 25 years as a local government planner in and around Park City, Utah. This included serving as Planning Director for Park City and Community Development Director for Summit County, Utah. These positions allowed Nora to develop and fine tune her negotiation, project management, team building and interagency coordination skills.

Passing the TorchNora’s work with Meadowlink as one of 8 regional Safe Routes to School Coordinators in the state has been critical to the success of New Jersey’s Safe Routes to School Program. The Regional Coordinator Program provides resources to communities, especially those in disadvantaged areas, to gain access to funding and start programs so kids and their families have more opportunities to be active more often. Nora will continue to lend her leadership and guidance to the programs she’s championed at Meadowlink as part of her new role so that the partnerships and trust she’s built in communities like Newark and Paterson will continue. 

Because of the important work Nora has done with Meadowlink, she not only understands the funding process of TMAs, but the important role they play in the success of Safe Routes to School in New Jersey. Nora has also been very active in the Safe Routes Partnership’s State Network Project for the past year serving on the New Jersey State Network Project Steering Committee as well as on two priority area Action Teams – one focused on leveraging federal funds for bicycle and pedestrian projects, and one focused on agreements between schools and municipalities to share playgrounds, parks and gyms. 

I feel bittersweet about stepping down from my post as New Jersey Advocacy Organizer because this project is important to me and I want to see it succeed not only for New Jersey and the Safe Routes Partnership, but most of all, for all of us - as a testament to our expertise, our drive and our passion to really make a difference in this world. I am happy to “pass the torch” to such a competent and passionate Safe Routes to School advocate and believe she has what it takes to provide a seamless transition, maintain momentum and usher the State Network Project into its second year.

Please join me in welcoming Nora Shepard as the New Jersey Advocacy Organizer!

My new contact information is:

Laura Torchio, AICP
Eat.Play.Live...Better Project Coordinator
Montclair State University
Department of Health and Nutrition Sciences