Inaugural John Parr Award Goes to Citistates Founders column — July 24, 2009

“John Parr was an uncommon American citizen.” Those were the words of that my fellow Alliance for Regional Stewardship board member and Citistates colleague, Doug Henton of Collaborative Economics, on the untimely passing of John Parr, a great, boundary-crossing national civic leader. John and his wife Sandy and daughter Chase tragically died in an auto accident in December 2007.

Parr’s lifetime mission was to recognize and motivate others in the arts of community building. He was one of America’s foremost counselors in the area of collaborative government, public/private partnerships, and regional governance. In that tradition, the Alliance for Regional Stewardship, which I am chairing this year, is pleased to announce the John Parr Award, to be bestowed annually by the Alliance for outstanding personal leadership and excellence in advancing regionalism and civic stewardship of metropolitan areas. John himself embodied that ideal through many activities, including his decades of inspirational and practical leadership of the Denver region and his contributions as a co-founder of the Alliance for Regional Stewardship.Your browser may not support display of this image.

John Parr
John Parr

It is fitting that the inaugural John Parr Award is being presented to Neal Peirce and his Citistates Group co-founders Curt Johnson and Farley Peters. Neal, Curt and Farley shared a lifetime of civic collaboration with John Parr–through the Citistates Group, the National Civic League, and the Alliance for Regional Stewardship. Neal helped recruit John for the National Civic League presidency; John advised the Citistates team on their first “Peirce Report” (for the Phoenix region in 1987); Curtis worked closely with John on many projects including the Boundary Crossers project and book with the late John Gardner; and Farley sparked organization of the Citistates Group in 1995, with John as a charter Associate and speaker.

The John Parr Award will be made annually to recognize individuals who have dedicated their work and personal service, as well as social and political capital, to regional stewardship. The Award named in his honor is the only recognition that the Alliance bestows upon individuals. It was formally presented to Neal, Curt and Farley at the Alliance’s Annual Meeting and Regional Strategies Forum on Wednesday, July 29th in Raleigh, North Carolina.

The John Parr Award recognizes Neal Peirce as one of the most widely-recognized and widely-read writers in the nation about metropolitan regions–their political and economic dynamics, and their emerging national and global roles. His weekly column, syndicated through the Washington Post Writers Group since 1978, appears in over 50 newspapers. Time magazine has called Neal “the only national chronicler of grass-roots America.”

Sharing credit for accomplishments and humility are hallmarks of effective regional stewardship, yet no one can deny the role that individual leaders play in successful regional initiatives and advancing the civic stewardship of regions. Through their over 25 years of producing independent civic diagnostics of over 25 regions, Neal, Curt and Farley have had transformational impacts on the livability and economic competitiveness of regions throughout America.

In our own bi-state St. Louis region, a 1997 Peirce Report published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch proved to be a civic wakeup call for St. Louis, generating unified region-wide action which has stimulated some $5 billion in reinvestment in the region’s center city and launching the region as the BioBelt: The Center of Plant & Medical Sciences.

Citistates co-founders Neal Peirce, Farley Peters, and Curtis Johnson
Citistates co-founders Neal Peirce, Farley Peters, and Curtis Johnson.

Neal, Curt, and Farley established the Citistates Group in 1995 with the goal of bringing an array of public policy, regional and economic development expertise together in a collaborative group that could be accessible to people trying to solve regional and community problems anywhere in the country. Since then, the Citistates Group has emerged as a nationally-recognized network of journalists, speakers, community and economic developers and advisers committed to competitive, equitable, and sustainable metropolitan regions. Their trademark “Citistates Reports” (formerly “Peirce Reports”) — independent assessments of a particular region’s major problems and opportunities — have been catalysts for change in metropolitan areas regions across the country. Their most recent book, Century of the City — No Time To Lose–reflects their experience covering the Bellagio Global Urban Summit sponsored by the Rockefeller Foundation during the summer of 2007.