Member Spotlight: IIDA Members Elected to City Council

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Julie Sayers (L) and Bonnie Limbird (R). Photos by: (L-R) d. marie imagery and Heather Edwards

This past November, folks around the country voted in various local and state elections, deciding on the seats that will affect their lives most, including their City Council members. Our IIDA Mid-America Chapter had the honor of watching two of their members and past presidents be elected to their local City Councils. Bonnie Limbird, IIDA, and Julie Sayers, IIDA, will be serving Prairie Village, Kansas, and Lenexa, Kansas, respectively, bringing the skills and knowledge to the table that only an interior designer can. Limbird and Sayers both have multi-faceted experiences in the design industry, and in serving their communities in a volunteer capacity.

Limbird’s career includes designing low-income and independent housing, project management and business development, and she currently practices as an interior designer at Kansas City’s SFS Architecture.

Julie Sayers has specialized in the design and execution of collegiate and professional sports facilities including administration, large-scale project management, and multi-disciplinary coordination, and currently works as a senior project manager and associate at encompas where she specializes in design and execution of commercial office design.

What made you decide to run for city council? 

Bonnie Limbird: No one single reason made me decide, but reasons just kept coming up until I couldn’t not run any longer. The reasons were issues that are important to me, my family, and neighbors in Prairie Village, and that the Council had trouble passing, or couldn’t get passed at all, Issues such as a Non-Discrimination Ordinance, loosening of alternative energy regulations for homeowners, enacting neighborhood design standards, and repeal of breed-specific legislation, are just a few.

Julie Sayers: I got involved in local politics during the 2018 midterm election when I was introduced to a congressional candidate through the owner of my gym. As I spent months going door to door campaigning on behalf of someone else, I found that conversations often shifted to the issues that affect people most closely here in Lenexa: creating a sense of place and providing a safe, connected community that is accessible to everyone. Volunteering for that campaign opened my eyes to the fact that we need more diversity and women’s voices at every level of our government.

Can you tell us about the issues you are most passionate about working on for your community?  

JS: Like most suburban areas in the United States, Lenexa is experiencing explosive growth, which is creating an imbalance between new development and existing infrastructure. Our citizens are concerned that the older parts of our city are being left vacant and falling into disrepair, and I believe it is our responsibility as a municipality to provide cohesion between new development and revitalization to ensure that all parts of our community remain affordable and vibrant for all residents. I believe my background in design and commercial construction provides me with the skills to be a valuable voice in that process.

BL: As a designer, improving the neighborhood design standards, which were enacted to regulate the massive teardown/rebuilds, are important to me and important to our community to maintain the diversity and welcoming nature of our neighborhoods. However, a larger issue has arisen as an additional symptom of the rebuild problem: skyrocketing property values that are pushing our long-time residents and senior citizens out of their homes.

As a community, we need diversity of age, income, race, ethnicity, experience, and more in our neighborhoods and the rebuild trend right now is pushing out our seniors and fixed- and low-income residents, and keeping out most first-time homebuyers, young families under a certain income, and most folks with jobs that are foundational to our community’s well being: nurses, police officers, firefighters, and educators. Additionally, all of the homes being rebuilt are multi-story homes and are inherently inaccessible for the differently-abled and elderly with mobility issues, and they’re being built without any guidelines for sustainability or energy efficiency.

So altogether, this is a massive problem that can’t be resolved at the city level alone. However, with my experience in accessible, universal, and sustainable design, on top of my concern for our aging population and other residents, I am uniquely qualified to work with our county commissioners and local state legislators to identify the biggest concerns and write policy and create programs to resolve them.

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Julie Sayers’ campaign kick-off event. Photo courtesy of Julie Sayers.

Is there a particular project that you are especially excited to start working on?  

JS: The Metro Kansas City region is one of the recent recipients of grant funding from the Global Covenant of Mayors to support a newly-formed organization called Climate Action KC (CAKC). The purpose is to develop policies and solutions that can be implemented regionally to address the problem of global climate change. Over 70 elected officials from across the region signed on as leaders of this organization, and with my election I’m excited to be the first from Lenexa. I have been working for CAKC in a volunteer capacity since its inception, and am excited to use my elected position to educate and empower our community and to help implement solutions at the city level.

BL: See previous answer. 

How did serving your professional community as IIDA Chapter President prepare you for the campaign, and how will that experience help you to serve your community as a City Council member?  

JS: Serving as a chapter president teaches the skill of long-term leadership when it comes to visioning, goal setting, financial planning, and succession. Like an IIDA chapter, many of the initiatives and financial plans for my city have been decided prior to my election, and it is my job to ensure the successful implementation of that vision.

BL: Serving the IIDA Mid-America Chapter was my first true board experience, which led me to other non-profit and board roles, and now to a city council role. All of these organizations have had the same foundational structure of serving a mission on a budget, with care for those served. Listening skills, volunteer management, delegation, follow-through, and accountability are some of the leadership qualities I learned and refined the more I served. As an IIDA chapter president, I began the practices of listening, researching, and learning about all of the aspects of our local organization to prioritize and execute the most needed changes. To me, listening is the first and most important action to practice in leadership and will remain so in my service on the city council.

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Bonnie Limbird and supporters. Photo courtesy of Bonnie Limbird

What aspects of working in the interior design field will be most transferable to the decision making and policymaking that you will be doing for your community going forward?  

BL: Being able to see the forest and the trees while understanding how they each work to serve one another is important both in designing spaces for clients and governing a municipality. Being a good listener and practicing problem-solving skills are necessary to help teams formulate solutions and have buy-in from the very beginning. Change is hard, and working in the design field has taught me that there is always room for improvement from within and that proactive communication and involvement from the very beginning always makes for smooth and successful change management.

JS: From my perspective, there is no one better suited for public service than a designer.  It is central to our core as professionals to listen to our clients, help them understand their own goals, build consensus among often complex groups, communicate effectively, and responsibly manage a budget. Designers are also acutely aware that implementing a concept can often be a very long and complicated arc, and that periodic re-evaluation is necessary for ensuring success. I hope to be an engaged and transparent representative to whom my residents feel comfortable providing meaningful feedback, just as clients do during the design process. 

You have extensive volunteer and community-service experiences, what would you say to IIDA members and other creatives that ask why being involved in your community as a volunteer is important to both personal and professional growth?

JS: It often isn’t clear until later what skills and connections are afforded to you each time you volunteer. Every time you say yes to an opportunity, you are generating new threads that over time weave a tapestry that makes you a uniquely valuable voice within your professional organization and your community.

BL: I can’t say enough about how important volunteering is in your community for so many reasons, but relative to personal and professional growth: it will make you a better designer.

Learning about, meeting, and knowing people and organizations in your city that you wouldn’t necessarily interact with normally gives you an extended breadth of knowledge about:

  • How facilities really function when the designers leave the building, or
  • Types of organizations that don’t have the luxury of hiring designers
  • How debilitating bad design can be for organizations that need to run as efficiently and cheaply as possible
  • How you can give back with your time and talents even when you don’t have money to give 
  • How to prioritize what’s really the most important expenditure for an organization
  • How hard it is to raise money for capital improvements
  • Hands-on experience working with the community being served by the organization

This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

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2019 Advocacy Symposium Inspires Collaboration in Public Interest

The 5th annual IIDA Advocacy Symposium, held this past September in Boston, was a resounding success thanks to a bevy of informative speakers, engaged attendees, and meaningful advocacy conversations. We cannot say thank you enough to our sponsors IdeaPaint who hosted the opening reception, and Allsteel who hosted Saturday’s event.

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IIDA member attendees tour the Massachusetts State House. Photo by: Caitlin Cunningham

On Friday, attendees were welcomed to the Massachusetts State House, one of the premier examples of Federal architecture on the East Coast. Docents gave a guided tour of the historic building before attendees settled in for a keynote presentation from Arline Isaacson, president of Isaacson Consulting. Ms. Isaacson was a lead advocate in the fight for marriage equality in Massachusetts and integral in the passage of the first same-sex marriage law in the United States. Her inspirational story included practical advice on having more than just a good idea, but how to do the work to back it up. Next up, our lobbyists from Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Ohio, and Utah had an enlightening panel conversation about the work that goes into passing a piece of interior design legislation in today’s political climate.

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2019 Advocate of the Year Chealyn Jackson, IIDA. Photo by: Caitlin Cunningham

The day ended with an awards ceremony, naming Chealyn Jackson, IIDA, VP of advocacy for the Ohio-Kentucky Chapter, the 2019 IIDA Advocate of the Year. Three Legislator of the Year awards were presented by IIDA New England to their bill sponsors, Senator (MA) Joan Lovely, Representative (MA) Elizabeth Poirier, and Representative (MA) Patricia A. Haddad.

On Saturday, we focused on the successes and challenges of advocacy at the chapter and the state levels. Members from Oregon, Texas, Wisconsin, and South Florida shared techniques for successful advocacy, discussed challenges they have overcome, and identified opportunities for the future of interior design advocacy. Next up, Tracey Thomas, director of strategic sales at IIDA, gave an energetic presentation on the power of persuasion that provided attendees with communication strategies tailored for advocacy efforts.

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Attendees of the Symposium. Photo by: Caitlin Cunningham

The Council for Interior Design Qualification (CIDQ) provided an update, which was followed by a panel discussion covering the changing and unchanging landscape of interior design legislation that featured John Czarnecki, Hon. IIDA, Assoc. AIA, deputy director and senior vice president of IIDA; Megan Blacklidge, IIDA, Mid-America Chapter member; Matthew Whitehead, vice president of the Governmental Policy Group, Inc; and Amy Coombs, founder and executive director of Prestige Government Relations.

This was followed by two panel discussions to close out the weekend; the first focusing on effective communication strategies for chapter leaders to engage their chapters in advocacy efforts, and the second focusing on discussing advocacy at multidisciplinary firms.

We can’t wait to see you all next year at the 6th annual IIDA Advocacy Symposium!

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Featured image by: Caitlin Cunningham

Get Ready for the 2019 IIDA Advocacy Symposium

See what’s in store at this year’s annual symposium of interior design advocates from across the country. 


This year’s IIDA Advocacy Symposium is jam-packed with sessions that will not only help you develop your advocacy skills but will give you the tools you need to make your chapter better at advocating.

Attendees will enjoy programs, lunches, and networking receptions, and get to meet fellow interior design advocates to discuss advocacy issues, successes, and questions.

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 20

We are excited to be hosting Symposium participants at the Massachusetts State House, where we will focus on legislators, legislative strategies, and the importance of civic engagement.

The day will begin with a tour of the State House, designed by Charles Bulfinch, a National Historic Landmark considered a masterpiece of Federal architecture. Keynote speaker Arline Isaacson will then discuss the importance of civic engagement across all interests and groups.

IIDA Executive Vice President and CEO Cheryl S. Durst, Hon. FIIDA, will then have a fireside chat with local Massachusetts legislators to give us a unique perspective on who legislators are, what they do, and what they want to hear from us.

We’ll follow that up with an informative session and Q&A with several IIDA lobbyists from across the United States about what they’ve seen work and how we can improve as an industry. After a full day of information, we’re thrilled that IdeaPaint will be hosting an opening reception at Boston’s District Hall from 5:30-7 p.m.

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 21

We are elated that Allsteel will be hosting us at their beautiful Boston showroom where we’ll learn about strategies and best practices for implementing advocacy of all kinds at the chapter level.

In the morning, several chapters and states will be giving us updates on their advocacy activities over the past year and their plans for the future. Tracey Thomas, IIDA’s Director of Strategic Sales, will then teach us strategies to better communicate our ideas to the right audience through a comprehensive presentation. IIDA Headquarters will debut and give updates to our collateral and CIDQ will update us on what’s new in their world. Headquarters will also provide updates on the opposition landscape and how to fund and afford advocacy in your chapter.

We’ll end our day with panels featuring interior design advocates on how to communicate effectively and how to talk advocacy at firms. Allsteel has graciously agreed to then host a short closing reception, allowing us the opportunity to decompress and discuss all we’ve learned.

We can’t wait to see you all at this year’s Symposium!


Registration to the 2019 IIDA Advocacy Symposium is open until September 6. Learn more about this year’s program and reserve your spot at www.iida.org/advocacy-symposium

 

 

 

 

 

IIDA Pennsylvania/New Jersey/Delaware Chapter: Why We Advocate

In July, the IIDA Pennsylvania/New Jersey/Delaware Chapter hosted “Why We Advocate,” a roundtable series where attendees engaged in a moderated panel discussion about what it means to be an interior design advocate, what issues the profession faces, and where members could learn more about IIDA’s advocacy efforts. The roundtable featured five panelists with a wide range of expertise in the architecture, interior design, and legislative professions. We chatted with Jessie Santini, IIDA, vice president of advocacy of the Pennsylvania/New Jersey/Delaware Chapter to learn about what sparked the idea to start this series.

IIDA: What motivated the chapter to plan advocacy panels throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey?

Jessie Santini: Pennsylvania has active legislation in need of support and New Jersey has title regulation that is vulnerable to deregulation efforts. In seeking support for this legislation, the chapter board realized a lot of our members have a limited knowledge of interior design regulation and what it means to be an advocate. We determined that grassroots advocacy is critical for making headway with future legislative effort, and so we planned a three-city advocacy roundtable with the intent of educating and activating members throughout our chapter.

IIDA: How and why did you choose the panelists and questions you did?

JS: The goal for the “Why We Advocate” roundtable series was to have a diverse group of professionals that represent all aspects of commercial interior design. Panelists included NCIDQ-certified interior designers, including those who are business owners, firm leaders, educators, and coalition leaders, as well as individuals with government relations and lobbying backgrounds.

Emily Kluczynski, director of advocacy, legislative affairs, and public policy at IIDA Headquarters, was present for all roundtables and was able to provide insight into the bigger picture of what’s happening legislatively around the country, while Carrie Hillman of Milliron Goodman was able to speak to the legislative climate in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. We were even fortunate enough to be joined by an accomplished Philadelphia-based architect whose thoughts and perspectives were a welcome addition to the panel’s robust discourse.

As we developed the list of panel questions, we looked at this as being an “Advocacy 101” course for many attendees. The first several questions touched on the basic concepts of advocacy and interior design regulation, and as the list progresses, the questions delved into more complex issues that specific panelists could speak to. We had the same list of questions for all three events to serve as a foundation for the dialogue, yet each event had its own unique and vibrant conversations.

IIDA: Do you feel as though attendees walked away having learned something about advocacy?

JS: Most definitely! Whether new to advocacy or long-time supporters, we feel that attendees walked away feeling energized, enlightened, and ready to advocate for commercial interior design! Stay tuned for videos in which attendees share their takeaways. We hope these videos, once complete, will help to keep the advocacy energy high throughout the Pennsylvania/New Jersey/Delaware Chapter!


To learn more about the outstanding advocacy campaigns the IIDA Pennsylvania/New Jersey/Delaware Chapter is doing, visit iida-panjde.org/advocacy.

IIDA Response to White House Occupational Licensing Report

Today, the White House released a report, “Occupational Licensing: A Framework for Policymakers,” on occupational licensing. It provides a cost-benefit analysis of occupational licensing based on current data and suggests a number of best practices for state legislatures in regards to occupational licensing.

In the report, best practices for occupational licensing include:

  1. Limiting requirements to those that address legitimate public health and safety concerns.
  2. Applying the results of comprehensive cost-benefit assessments of licensing laws to reduce the number of unnecessary or overly-restrictive licenses.
  3. Harmonizing regulatory requirements as much as possible, and where appropriate entering into inter-state compacts that recognize licenses from other states, to increase the mobility of skilled workers.
  4. Allowing practitioners to offer services to the full extent of their current competency to ensure that all qualified workers are able to offer services.

The International Interior Design Association (IIDA) believes and supports the best practice of allowing practitioners to offer services to the full extent of their competency underscores the reason the Commercial Interior Design industry is striving to pass meaningful legislation. In most states current architecture licensing laws prevent qualified interior designers from providing services to the “full extent of their current competency.” IIDA is working to expand the number of practitioners providing interior design services to consumers in the code-impacted interior environment. We also believe lawmakers should apply cost-benefit analysis to ensure laws serve the best interest of their state.

The report also states that one of the reasons licensing laws exist is to protect the public’s health and safety, and is especially important in situations where it is costly or difficult for consumers to obtain information on service quality. Licensure of interior design would alleviate the consumer’s burden of design service quality verification.

Additionally, IIDA agrees with the White House report that licensing should not impede a designer’s ability to move or provide services in more than one state. Laws should reflect the mobility of workers and provide for reciprocity between states.

IIDA is continuing to monitor the situation and will provide updates as needed. IIDA does not believe that the White House report is damaging to our efforts to pass meaningful interior design legislation, and we will continue to advocate on behalf of the Interior Design profession.

Edwards, Julia. (2015, July 28). House Report Calls for Eased Job Licensing Requirements. Reutershttp://www.reuters.com/article/2015/07/28/us-usa-employment-licensing-idUSKCN0Q220C20150728 

Occupational Licensing: A Framework for Policymakers. (2015). Washington, DC: The White House. https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/licensing_report_final_nonembargo.pdf 

FACT OR FICTION?

Fact_or_Fiction

FACT: Interior Design is the development and implementation of an interior environment that provides the highest level of safety, function and overall enhancement to the inhabitants’ quality of life. An Interior Designer is an individual who has been trained to identify research and creatively solve problems pertaining to the development of an interior environment, and who possesses the knowledge and skills to implement these solutions. Interior Designers apply their expertise of Design and the built environment to solving problems at the interior scale and at the level of direct human experience. To learn more, visit our advocacy page here.

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