The Project Team

The  Project Team for Growing Forward is primarily staffed by the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Agency. Our staff come from many different professional backgrounds.  Each member brings a specific skill to the Project Team. You can think of us as your very own professional planners. 

John Bridger – Project Sponsor

John Bridger is the Executive Director of the Regional Planning Agency. John has lived in the area for over 20 years, 12 of them spent working with RPA. John’s professional background is in community planning and neighborhood revitalization.

He is an avid outdoorsman who enjoys taking his kayak on the Tennessee River and area creeks to fish and explore. John’s passion is to bring together people from various backgrounds to collaborate on new ideas and on strategies to improve our places.

Melissa Taylor – Project Lead

Melissa Taylor is a professional land use and transportation planning director with the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Agency and Chattanooga-Hamilton County/North Georgia Transportation Planning Organization.  Melissa is a 2008 Leadership Chattanooga graduate.  She has a Master of Science Degree in Environmental Science, and has been a professional planner for 15 years.  She has secured several federal grants and has contributed to and/or authored over 30 planning documents.  She currently manages a variety of local land use planning projects and federally-mandated transportation programs.  Melissa has been recognized by the Tennessee Chapter of the American Planning Association as their 2007 Planner of the Year.  She is also referred to as the catalyst for Chattanooga’s 2007 Bicycle Planning Award from the American Planning Association.  She is currently working to integrate land use and transportation planning through the development of a new strategic and comprehensive planning framework for the City of Chattanooga and Hamilton County.  This is a follow-up to her work on the Chattanooga-Hamilton County/North Georgia Transportation Planning Organization’s 2040 Regional Transportation Plan.

Her favorite activities include baking, traveling, horseback riding, spending time with family and her dog Annie Oakley, and being involved in her community.

Sue Knapp – Team Co-Leader

Sue is a Senior planner in the Research & Analysis Department. Her works in collecting and analyzing data provides the foundation for understanding our community.

Prior to this, Sue’s 36 years of public service included management position at the Chamber, Partner for Economic Progress (PEP) and the Housing Authority.  She is particularly interested in projects which improved the environment and enhanced people’s skills and independence.

Akosua Cook, AICP – Team Co-Leader

Akosua is a versatile planner with a strong combination of education and professional experience. Originally from Boston, Massachusetts, Akosua worked for several planning agencies throughout the Southeast before relocating two years ago to Chattanooga. She is currently a Senior Planner in the Long-Range and Strategic Planning Department of the Chattanooga- Hamilton County Regional Planning Agency.

Akosua has worked on a wide variety of planning projects including comprehensive plan updates for Orange County, Florida and Columbia County, Georgia. She is a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) and obtained dual Master’s degrees in Community Planning and Public Administration from Auburn University, receiving an Outstanding Graduate Student Award (2005).

Akosua enjoys music, movies, traveling and boxed wine (preferably a strong Malbec).

Justin Tirsun – Team Leader

Justin is a Senior Planner in the Strategic and Long Range Planning Department. He has a diverse professional and geographical background.  Justin has experience in community engagement and urban design with a Master’s Degree in City and Regional Planning from the Edward J. Bloustein School at Rutgers University. He has worked in Texas, New York, New Jersey, and along the US/Mexico Border.  He is happy to be at home again in the county’s heartland.

Justin has spent his first year in Chattanooga exploring and learning as much as possible about Hamilton County.  You will find him wandering throughout the county with a map in one hand and a canteen in the other.  He is a proud member of the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Class of 2006, Whoop!

Pam Glaser – Team Leader

Pam is a Senior Planner with the Community Design Group. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in history and the arts.  She has professional experience in communications, historic preservation, urban design and land use planning.  She is now ready for the challenge of community-wide planning.  Her focus is on sharing information in a simple and meaningful way.  Fellow planners are baffled by her fondness for writing codes and guidelines.  She’ll be the first to say that “any opportunity to integrate visual elements or make sense of the overly complex shouldn’t be missed.”

Pam’s favorite activities include volunteering at community events, gardening, enjoying our local parks or reading a great story or poem.  She loves spending time enjoying the trees, rivers and streams of the Southern Appalachian area that she calls home.   Pam also enjoys adventure-focused travel.  She always has her camera and finds artistic inspiration in each new town or city that she explores.  A regular volunteer at the local HES, she has two male rescue dogs who control everything but the remote.

Trevor Slayton – Team Member

Trevor Slayton is a Planning Technician 1 in RPA’s Development Services Department.  He has a Bachelors of Science in the Environmental Sciences and Cartographic Sciences and has experience analyzing environmental policy.  His main duties with RPA include writing legal descriptions, processing new applications, and scheduling pre-application meetings between planners and applicants.

During his free time, Trevor volunteers with several organizations and is always looking for unique opportunities to understand the needs of his friends and neighbors in Chattanooga.  Last year Trevor worked on building and posting four Little Free Libraries in North Chattanooga.  He collaborates with community representatives to keep these little libraries stocked with good books.


Cortney Mild – Team Member

Cortney is a Planner in the Strategic Long Range Planning Division. In addition to working on the Growing Forward team, Cortney provides guidance for the Green Trips program. After working for a Dutch transportation consulting firm, Cortney became passionate about building stronger communities and regions through well-balanced, multimodal transportation systems.

Cortney moved to the area to dance with the Chattanooga Ballet.  Although Cortney no longer dances, she stays active by mountain biking, rock climbing, trail running, triathlons, biking, and yoga.

Aleeta Zeller – Team Member

Aleeta is a Research Planner.  She has been researching, analyzing, and developing maps as part of the Research and Analysis Department of the RPA for 15 years.  She has a background in Environmental Studies and specializes in the use of Geographic Information Systems (specifically ArcGIS).

A family of 7 keeps her very busy at home.  Aleeta LOVES spending time in the outdoors with her  five children at soccer games, on bike rides or playing with the family dog.

Heather Shank, RLA, ASLA – Team Member

Heather is a Landscape Architect and Senior Planner with the Community Design Group. Her background is in land use planning, preparation of ordinances and guidelines, master planning and community development, site design, and community engagement. Heather currently oversees planning and development activities in the downtown planning district.

Heather enjoys her free time playing outdoors with her family.

Sarah Robbins – Team Member

Sarah is a Senior Planner with the Community Design Group. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Virginia Tech in Public and Urban Affairs – Policy and Planning.  She has public and private sector experience in site design, environmental/water quality planning, public policy analysis, community facilitation, public relations and urban design. Sarah currently oversees planning and development activities in the North Chattanooga and Lookout Valley districts.

Sarah enjoys spending her free time in the outdoors, running and paddle boarding with her family, friends and two Yorkshire Terriers.

Jenny Park – Team Member

As a Senior Planner in the Strategic and Long Range Planning Department, Jenny leads multimodal transportation planning efforts for the Transportation Planning Organization (TPO). Jenny values mobility for all transportation users and enjoys working on the RPA/TPO’s transit, bicycle, and pedestrian planning projects. In addition to transportation planning, Jenny is active in local open government and civic innovation efforts, and was recently named a member of the 2014 Vanguard Class.

Jenny likes hiking, cooking, and learning. While living in Japan, Jenny developed an enduring love for karaoke. She has traveled in 25+ countries and feels happiest when experiencing new and challenging places.

Jennifer Ware – Team Member

Jennifer Ware is a Planning Technician 2 in RPA’s Development Services Department with a degree in computer programming.  Her main duties are to maintain the digital zoning program for the RPA and make maps for zoning applications and neighborhood organizations.

She has recently adopted 3 children to add to her current family and they have moved into a larger 1950’s cottage which they are slowly renovating inside and out.  In her spare time she cheers on softball, ballet and is beginning a garden in her yard.

Randy Pullen – Team Member

Randy enjoys applying geospatial technology to complex scenarios. He holds a Master’s Degree in Geography from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and specializes in Geographic Information Systems (GIS). His previous experiences in managing and utilizing data in decision processes include work for the New York City Office of Emergency Management and Columbia University’s Center for International Earth Science Information Network.

A native of Dade County, Georgia, Randy is happy to return to the area. When not indulging a strong global wanderlust, he is out and about the Pullen’s family farm.

Karen Hundt, AICP – Team Mentor

With a background in architecture and city planning, much of Karen’s professional career has focused on downtown and riverfront redevelopment.  As Director of the RPA’s Community Design Group, Karen is passionate about promoting good design throughout Hamilton County.

In her free time, Karen enjoys traveling, rowing on the Tennessee River, and taking walks in the woods with her husband and dogs.

Greg Haynes, AICP – Team Mentor

Greg has been the director of the Development Services Division since 2006. He was previously the director of the Comprehensive Planning Division. He has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and is a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP). His background is in graphic design and land use planning. Greg oversees the day to day zoning and subdivision request process and presents those requests to the Planning Commission and legislative bodies.

He spends his time in his studio painting or in the garden trying to grow that perfect tomato.

Yuen Lee, AICP – Team Mentor

As the Director of the Research and Analysis Department, Yuen loves to dig through piles of numbers, statistics, charts and maps to get to the heart of the matter. She enjoys finding the hidden insights and intelligence that can help make the community a better place to work, live and play.

When she’s not studying maps in the office, Yuen spends her time traveling the world, reading books about different cultures and tending her garden.