About Us: Staff Biographies
Chris Ryer, Director
Chris returned to the Department of Planning as the Director in February 2019 after serving for over a decade as Executive Director of the Southeast Community Development Corporation (CDC), an organization dedicated to the vitality and growth of neighborhoods in Southeast Baltimore. Prior to joining the Southeast CDC, he worked for the Department of Planning, including 10 years as Community Planner and four years as Deputy Director.
Stephanie Smith, Assistant Director
Stephanie M. Smith is the Assistant Director and a member of the Maryland Bar. She has spent the bulk of her professional career working to advance environmental health and justice through federal clean air policy. As a former congressional staffer, Stephanie worked on affordable housing and voting rights issues. Most recently, Stephanie served in the executive leadership of a professional association focused on higher education and public health. Stephanie is an active member of the Greater Baltimore Urban League and Greater Baltimore Leadership Association. Stephanie is a proud graduate of Hampton University (BA), University of Delaware (MA), and Howard University School of Law (JD). Stephanie is married to Calvin, a mother to Parker, and a friend of Baltimore. She resides with her family in Baltimore City's Middle East community.
Nordia Malcolm, Human Resources Generalist
Nordia Malcolm is the Human Resources Generalist for the Department of Planning. Nordia oversees the department's HR-related activities including leading the department’s talent acquisition, classification and compensation, training and development, labor management, and payroll logistics. She has held various roles in Human Resources for over eight years in government and private settings and holds a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Towson University and a Certification in Human Resources Management from Villanova University.
Felicia Nordeen, Management Support Technician
Equity, Engagement, and Communications
Elina Bravve, City Planner
Elina Bravve joined the Department in January 2016, initially focusing on data and demographics. In 2017, she pivoted to preparing Departmental communications deliverables, managing web and social media content, developing strategies for public engagement, and managing the Baltimore Planning Academy initiative. Prior to joining Baltimore City, Elina worked for over five years crunching numbers as a researcher for the National Low Income Housing Coalition, a national public policy non-profit. Elina earned a Master's in City and Regional Planning from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Community Planning & Revitalization
Cheryl Casciani, Director of Community Planning and Revitalization
Prior to joining the Department of Planning, Cheryl worked for 20 years at the Baltimore Community Foundations where she coordinated BCF’s work to advance the City’s Sustainability Plan, participated on BCF’s Impact Investing team, supported several family foundations, and helped to develop and manage the Foundation’s discretionary grants program. From 1996 through October 1999, Cheryl was the Executive Director of the Citizens Planning and Housing Association. Cheryl came to CPHA after over seven years with the Annie E. Casey Foundation where she developed and managed the Children and Family Fellowship. Cheryl received an MBA from the Yale School of Management in 1988 and a Bachelor of Science in Economics and a Bachelor of Applied Science from the University of Pennsylvania in 1982. She currently resides in Baltimore’s Mt. Vernon neighborhood and is involved in numerous civic activities, including the immediate past Chair of the Baltimore City Board of School Commissioners and a member of the Creative Alliance board.
Chad Hayes, Planner Supervisor & Western District Planner
Chad Hayes is the Western District Planner in the Community Planning & Revitalization Division. He earned a Bachelor's degree from Towson University and a Master's degree in City and Regional Planning from his beloved Morgan State University. Chad found his calling in 2004 when he joined Belair-Edison Neighborhoods, an amazing non-profit community development organization in Northeast Baltimore. After 10 wonderful years in Belair-Edison, Chad jumped at the opportunity to bring his passion for urban planning and community development to the Department of Planning where he proudly serves the 46 neighborhoods in the western planning district.
Jeff LaNoue, Special Projects Planner & SWP Area Planner
Jeff is developing and refining Baltimore Green Network projects to move them toward implementation. Jeff has completed real estate, historic preservation, sustainability, and economic development projects over his career in the higher-education and non-profit sectors. Jeff has been a contributing writer for the American Public Transportation Association and Greater Greater Washington as well as other urban planning publications. He holds an Economics degree from St. Mary's College of Maryland and a Master's in Community Planning from the University of Maryland-College Park. Jeff is a Baltimore native who loves outdoor recreation and exploring cities.
Reni Lawal, Northern District Planner
Reni is the Planner for the Northern District. She works with communities to help address a myriad of issues across the planning spectrum. It was during her senior year of college that she discovered her passion for community development and engagement. Through Public Allies, an AmeriCorps program, she was placed at Central Baltimore Partnership, beginning her career within her dream field. She also was involved in the development of the Southwest Partnership Vision Plan and organization development. She has a B.A. in Economics from Spelman College and is pursuing a Master’s Degree in City and Regional Planning. Reni is a proud Baltimorean who enjoys traveling and learning about different cities around the globe.
Kyle Leggs, Southwest District Planner
Kyle Leggs is the Planner for Southwest who has worked for the Department of Planning for 21 years. Throughout his tenure, he has managed the capital budgeting process, represented the department in the areas of Transportation Planning, Emergency Preparedness, and has worked extensively over the years as a District Planner for Southwest Baltimore. He is also a retired Army Lieutenant Colonel and is the Director of Planning and Design to build the National Desert Storm War Memorial in Washington, D.C. He holds an M.S. in Transportation from Morgan State University, a B.S. in Social Science from Coppin State University, and is a graduate of the United States Army Command and General Staff College.
Jennifer Leonard, INSPIRE Program Manager
Jennifer has spent almost two decades working to ensure that communities around the country understand the opportunities, and have the tools they need, to transform vacant properties into assets. “Vacant Spaces into Vibrant Places” is the tagline of the national nonprofit organization she co-founded, prior to joining the Planning Department. The journey started by helping develop affordable housing with a CDC in Baltimore. Jennifer’s early work life at the Children’s Defense Fund catalyzed her commitment to being an active partner for positive change in communities. Jennifer holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and a Master of City and Regional Planning. She enjoys exploring nature, photography, biking, yoga, and dogs.
Carmen Morosan, Northeast District Planner
Originally from Romania, Carmen came to the United States to further her education. After graduating from Boston University with a Master’s degree in Urban Affairs, Carmen moved to Baltimore and worked for several nonprofits managing projects in the areas of transportation equity and environmental justice. Carmen has been working as a City Planner for the Baltimore City Planning Department for over 10 years, most recently as the Northeast District Planner. Carmen enjoys traveling during her spare time.
Kimberley M. Knox, Greening Coordinator
Kim is the Greening Coordinator for the Baltimore Green Network, so she works with residents to implement their vision in recreating vacant lots into community assets in their neighborhood in the Baltimore Green Network’s focus areas. She has an extensive background in community outreach and engagement. Kim has worked in water conservation, renewable energy, and energy conservation in San Francisco, Colorado, and Maryland. Kim is the author/primary editor of several books on water-conserving landscaping and other environmentally-related topics. Kim has taught classes on fruit trees, best management practices for stormwater, and other similar topics. Kim has also worked with volunteers to plant over 4,000 trees in Maryland. With a Masters in Public Administration, Kim is also a certified arborist and a Master Gardener. When she is not exploring beautiful Baltimore, she is putting her passport to good use by exploring the world.
Land Use & Urban Design
Eric Tiso, Division Chief
Eric Tiso joined the Department of Planning in 2000 and is a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP), the American Planning Association’s Professional Institute. He has earned a Master of City Planning degree from the University of Pennsylvania, and a Bachelor of Science degree in Geography and Regional Planning from Salisbury State University. Eric enjoys community service through a variety of organizations and outdoor recreation.
Matthew DeSantis, City Planner & Area Planner for SE
Matthew joined the Department of Planning in 2016 and is a proud Baltimore City resident. He worked in local planning in South Florida after serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Dominican Republic. Currently, he manages the land subdivision process, coordinates bicycle-related issues, works to implement wireless telecommunications policy, and assists with various other land use matters. He holds a Master of Science degree in Urban and Regional Planning as well as a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy from Florida State University (…go ‘Noles…) and is a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners.
Martin French, City Planner
Martin French has worked for the Planning Department since 2004. After five years in the Research & Strategic Planning Division, where he was a contributor to LIVE EARN PLAY LEARN, the City’s Comprehensive Master Plan, he began working in the Land Use & Urban Design Division as the Department’s representative at zoning hearings. Apart from this principle responsibility, Martin is part of the LUUD team advising developers and citizens about possible development or redevelopment and how zoning may shape outcomes of those ideas. Before joining Planning, Martin worked for several decades in the subsidized housing field for the Housing Authority of Baltimore City and the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development. His career started with a BA in Geography from the Johns Hopkins University. A 45-year resident of the Baltimore area (20 of them in the City), Martin tends to his gardening in good weather and his coin collection in bad weather.
Ivor Quashie, City Planner
Urban Design Team
Tamara Woods, Planning, Redevelopment & Policy Administrator
Tamara Woods has been with the Department of Planning since 2002. As a Planning, Redevelopment and Policy Administrator she combines her expertise in land use planning and neighborhood planning to work primarily on land use policy initiatives and regulatory writing, such as working extensively on the zoning code rewrite. In addition, she focuses on project development and management of large-scale or complex development efforts that are multi-phased and/or have high neighborhood transformation impacts.
Renata Southard, Design Planner
Renata Southard is a Design Planner in the Land Use and Urban Design division. Ren spent several years in the private sector working as an architectural designer and project manager before joining the Department of Planning. Ren is a proud graduate of the University of Maryland, where she obtained her Master of Architecture. Ren also holds a BA in Studio Art and a Certificate in Urban Design. In addition to her work, Ren co-chairs AIA Baltimore’s Urban Design Committee.
Caitlin Audette, Design Planner
Caitlin is a Design Planner in the Land Use and Urban Design Division, as well as the Downtown Planner. Caitlin transitioned to this position from the Historic Preservation Division where she acted as a Preservation Planner serving CHAP. Prior to joining the city in 2014, Caitlin worked in the private sector in Washington, D.C. as a preservationist and historic tax credit consultant. In that role, she explored many unique places including leading an architectural survey of the U.S. Capitol Building. Caitlin earned her Bachelor's and Master's degrees in Architecture from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. A resident of the Lake Evesham neighborhood, Caitlin is an avid reader who enjoys exploring the city with her family.
Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation (CHAP)
Eric Holcomb, Division Chief/Director
Eric obtained a Liberal Arts degree from St. Mary’s College of Maryland and a Master’s Degree in Preservation Studies at Boston University. He worked for several remodeling and restoration companies as a tradesman until he joined the staff of the Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation (CHAP) in 1994. In 2004, the staff of CHAP merged with the Department of Planning. In 2014, he became the Executive Director of CHAP and Division Chief where he has worked to further integrate and coordinate historic preservation into Planning activities. He is the author of City As Suburb: A History of Northeast Baltimore Since 1660. In 2016 he was awarded the Mayor’s Medallion for Meritorious Service and in 2018 the Honorable mention for the 14th annual Richard A. Lidinsky, Sr. award for Excellence in Public Service. He is married and has two boys, a one-eyed dog and a cat with a crooked tail.
Eddie Leon, Historic Preservation Planner
Eddie has been with CHAP since 1994 and has functioned in every area of the Preservation Division for the past 25 years. Originally, born in Lima, Peru, he came and settled in the Greater Baltimore area since he was 2 years old. He is primarily responsible for the oversight and permits review for more than half the designated properties and districts in the City. Eddie is a graduate of the University of Maryland at College Park with a degree in Architectural History. He's worked on Underwater Archaeological projects in Israel and is currently on the board of directors for the Baltimore Courthouse and Law Museum Foundation. Eddie is also on the board and a founding member of the Baltimore City Historical Society. He enjoys traveling with his family and is an avid fan of the Science Fiction genre.
Stacy Montgomery, Historic Preservation Planner
Stacy Montgomery has been working for the City of Baltimore as a Historic Preservation Planner for Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation since 2010. She is the administrator of the City's Historic Rehabilitation and Restoration Tax Credit, which encourages substantial rehabilitation of historic buildings throughout the City. Prior to joining the CHAP staff, Stacy worked as an architectural historian for a Cultural Resource Management firm documenting historic sites throughout Maryland and Virginia. Stacy holds a master's degree in Historic Preservation from the University of Maryland, College Park, and a degree in History from Florida International University in Miami (Go Panthers!)
Lauren Schiszik, Historic Preservation Planner
Lauren is a preservation planner for several local historic districts and Baltimore City Landmarks, and coordinator for the landmark designation and monument restoration programs. Prior to joining the department in 2011, she was a public archaeologist and cultural resources planner in Anne Arundel County. Lauren is also an adjunct faculty member in the Historic Preservation graduate program at Goucher College and the Public History undergraduate program at Stevenson University and serves on the Governor’s Commission on Maryland Military Monuments. She holds a Master of Historic Preservation degree from the University of Maryland, College Park, and a degree in Sociology/Anthropology from Earlham College. Outside of work, you can find this city resident in her garden or kitchen exploring new foodways, outdoors on a trail, or at an event in Baltimore's rich arts scene.
Anthony Williams, City Planner
Anthony Williams is a Project Designer working for the City of Baltimore as a City Planner for the Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation.
Prior to joining the CHAP team, Anthony worked as a Project designer for several local Architecture firms specializing in residential housing, senior living and commercial buildings.
Anthony graduated with his Bachelor of Science in Graphic Communications with a concentration in Architecture from North Carolina A&T. He then went on to get his Master of Architecture degree from Morgan State University (Go Aggies & Bears!) In Anthony’s spare time he enjoys playing video games and spending time with his wife and their puppy.
Tyriq Charleus, City Planner
Tyriq Charleus joins the Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation as a City Planner. Tyriq earned a Bachelor of Science (BS) in Architecture & Environmental Design from Morgan State University. Originally from the Washington DC area, Tyriq loves working in the Historic Preservation field because of all the uncovered knowledge that can be discovered daily. He fell in love with Baltimore City as he matriculated through Morgan State University and wanted to become an agent of change for communities. It is a goal for Tyriq to be a steward of knowledge for the next generations to come
Sara Paranilam, Division Chief
Sara Paranilam has nearly twenty years of community and comprehensive planning experience. As a veteran within the Planning Department, she has developed many neighborhood master plans and launched new planning programs. She also manages the City's billion-dollar Capital Improvement Program.
Kristen Ahearn, Capital Improvement Program Planner
Kristen joined the Department in 2016. As the Capital Improvement Program Planner, she works with all city agencies to prepare the City's six-year Capital Improvement Program. Prior to working for Baltimore City, she worked for Johns Hopkins University's Center for Government Excellence and the Maryland Energy Administration. Outside of work, Kristen enjoys exploring Baltimore's neighborhoods on foot with her husband, daughter, and dog.
John Lloyd, Asset Manager
John Lloyd joined the Department of Planning in September 2020. His role is to identify and develop tools that will provide the Department of Planning and Finance insight into agency-level information on the city’s assets. This data will allow Planning to analyze capital projects and ensure that funding decisions are supported by sound data. John is originally from Washington, DC, but he has called Baltimore his home for the past twenty years. John is a proud graduate of Morgan State University.
Jamie Williams, City Planner Supervisor
Jamie manages web, IT, and data/mapping support for the Department as well as other City agencies. She joined the Department of Planning in 2003. In her spare time, she enjoys the outdoors, traveling, and spending time with her family.
Austin Davis, GIS Analyst
Office of Sustainability
Lisa McNeilly, Director
Lisa McNeilly has worked in the environmental field for over 20 years, with a record of embedding sustainability at all levels of diverse organizations. Prior to joining the Office of Sustainability, she advanced sustainable operations at UC Berkeley and Grand Canyon National Park promoted climate change and energy policy in Washington, D.C., and researched food policy in West Africa. She holds a Master`s degree in Public Policy from Princeton and an undergraduate degree in Mathematics from Davidson College.
Ava Richardson, Sustainability Manager
Ava Richardson is the new Sustainability Manager for the Baltimore Office of Sustainability. In this role she will lead the implementation of the 2019 Baltimore Sustainability Plan, support the Commission on Sustainability and convene stakeholders across the city to advance sustainability initiatives. Besides her previous work with the Office as a technical adviser for the Baltimore Food Matters program, Ava has over a decade of experience leading public health initiatives, advocating for environmental policies, and managing programs designed to address social inequities. Most recently she served as a project director at the Baltimore City Health Department, leading efforts to address decades of trauma in West Baltimore. Ava holds a BS in Biology from Frostburg State University, an MPH from Morgan State University, and is currently obtaining a DrPH from The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
Abby Cocke, Environmental Planner
Abby Cocke joined the Baltimore Office of Sustainability in 2011. Prior to that, she got a BA in Environmental Studies at UMBC, and worked for five years at the Parks & People Foundation, first as a Community Organizer, and then as the Manager of Community Greening Programs. Her current work focuses on urban agriculture, green school initiatives, and brownfields. She is an Ednor Gardens resident and grew up in Baltimore County. Her hobbies include biking, growing things, and local theater.
Bruna Attila, Coastal Resources Planner
Bruna Attila is the Coastal Resources Planner for the Baltimore Office of Sustainability. Bruna is originally from Rio de Janeiro- Brazil and has been living in Baltimore since 2008. She coordinates the Critical Area Management Program, which manages the sustainable development of the coastal areas of Baltimore City. Bruna is also involved with the implementation of the Maritime Master Plan. She has worked extensively in the environmental field and has performed watershed assessments for projects with national and international scopes. Bruna holds a Master of Environmental Science- Water Resources Management from Towson University, and a Master of Environmental Planning and Management from Johns Hopkins University. In her free time, she enjoys experimenting with exotic cuisines and traveling.
Aubrey Germ, Climate and Resilience Planner
Aubrey Germ is the Climate and Resilience Planner for Baltimore’s Office of Sustainability. Her work entails developing, managing, and implementing a wide range of hazard mitigation, climate adaptation, and community resilience plans and projects. She hails from Cleveland, Ohio, and holds a Master’s Degree in Urban Planning from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design and a BS in Environmental Health Sciences from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Go Heels!) where she was a Morehead-Cain Scholar. Her background includes serving as an Assistant Program Manager for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation in both Tangier, Virginia, and Baltimore and conducting independent research in sustainable development around the globe. In her spare time, she enjoys knitting, pottery, swimming, SCUBA diving, yoga, exploring the city, and spending time outdoors.
Amy Gilder Busatti, Environmental Planner and Landscape Architect
Amy Gilder-Busatti joined the Baltimore Office of Sustainability in 2010. Amy’s primary areas of responsibility include coordinating the City’s Forest Conservation program and representing the Office of Sustainability on issues and initiatives related to water quality, greening, and urban design. In her time with the Department, she has also led the creation of the Baltimore Green Network Plan, coordinated the Critical Area Management Program, and developed the Baltimore Landscape Manual. Before joining the Office of Sustainability, Amy worked as a landscape architect and planner with several Baltimore area architecture and engineering firms. She holds a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture degree from Ball State University and a Master of Urban and Regional Planning degree from Morgan State University. Amy is also a licensed landscape architect in the state of Maryland.
Kat Tebbetts, Climate Community Engagement Fellow
Kas Tebbetts is the Climate Community Engagement Fellow at Baltimore’s Office of Sustainability. She is passionate about empowering new voices in the field of urban planning and utilizing all forms of expertise in the process of building community. She is excited to build community around sustainability in Baltimore and inspire equitable climate action for the city. In the past, she has worked with local history museums, urban farmers, community activists, architecture firms, real estate developers, and financial institutions in her ongoing endeavor to understand community development from every perspective. Kas originally hails from East Texas, holds a B.A. in Architecture and Urban Studies from Yale University, and spends all her time with her two wonderful and slightly-crazy Kuwaiti rescue dogs.
Food Policy and Planning
Holly Freishtat, Food Policy Director
Holly Freishtat, Baltimore City’s first Food Policy Director, began her work with the City of Baltimore in 2010. Holly created the Baltimore Food Policy Initiative, an inter-governmental collaboration that aims to address food system policy. She has spent over two decades working on food issues in a variety of contexts; experiences that have provided her with an understanding of the food system from the perspective of a food policy strategist, nutritionist, educator, and grower. Holly has a Masters of Science from Tufts University in Applied Nutrition: Agriculture, Food and The Environment, a Bachelor of Science from the University of Vermont in Nutrition and served as a Food and Society Policy Fellow in 2007-2009. She received the 2016 Medallion for Meritorious Service Award by former Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. Earlier in 2016, she was honored as one of Maryland Daily Record’s Top 100 women in Maryland. The Baltimore Food Policy Initiative was recognized internationally with the highest award for its implementation of the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact on World Food Day 2016.
Yewande Akinkuowo, Food Access Planner
Yewande "Wande" Akinkuowo is a lover of all things food and public health. Wande holds a bachelor's degree in Nutrition and Dietetics from the University of Rhode Island and a master’s degree in Health Equity from the University of Maryland College Park. Her decision to study Nutrition came from the desire to learn how to be the healthiest version of herself. Wande has three years of experience in nutrition education, working for university extension programs in both Rhode Island and Maryland. In addition Wande has three years of experience in grants, contracts, and budget development from her last role as a Grants and Finance Project Manager at Children's National Research Institute. In her spare time you can probably catch Wande watching Guys Grocery Games or Hell's Kitchen, her hobbies include creating recipes, food photography, content creation and crossfit.
Lindsay Adams, Food Resilience Planner
Lindsay Adams earned her Master’s in Health Sciences with a focus on Food Systems, Agriculture, and Sustainability and received a certification in Food Systems, the Environment, and Public health from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in 2019. Before this, she spent 10 years in Colorado where she received her BA in Public Health from the University of Colorado and worked as a community gardener, nutrition educator, and managed two research teams focused on improving food systems in rural and underserved communities. Most recently, she spent two years working as the Program Coordinator for the Accountable Health Communities project at the Baltimore City Health Department. In this role, she served as a project manager, working to improve health outcomes by addressing social determinants of health in clinical settings, and managed BCHD’s public resource directory, CHARMcare.
Taylor LaFave, Food Systems Planner
Taylor LaFave is the Food Systems Planner for the Baltimore Food Policy Initiative. He works to build an equitable urban food system through food planning and by revising land-use policies. Since joining the team in 2020, he has worked on the City’s COVID-19 Emergency Food Response.
Taylor earned his Master of Urban and Regional Planning degree from the University of Michigan. Taylor enjoys working in the Radnor-Winston community garden, biking to work, exploring Baltimore’s history, and visiting baseball stadiums across the country.