Introducing the Regional and State Policy Blogs

Kris KesselIt is an exciting time of new beginnings and opportunity - the beginning of my role as network director, a new blog and a huge expansion of the Safe Routes Partnership. As network director my primary role is to manage the state and regional networks – both of which are growing to include full-time advocates in our seven network states (California, Florida, Mississippi, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio and Tennessee) and three network regions (Southern California, San Francisco/Bay Area and Washington, DC metro area).

Joining the Safe Routes Partnership as the network director to help shepherd this explosion of nationwide influence is a tremendous privilege and exhilarating challenge. I come to the organization with 20 years of civil/environmental engineering and management experience plus a background in mathematics and technology education. But perhaps most important, I bring a personal passion for causes that focus on environmental and health-based initiatives which affect change through public policy, education and community involvement.

As a parent of school-age children this passion continues to grow as the need to ensure a healthy future for my children is ever present. And in these challenging economic and political times when much needs to be done to maintain the momentum of progress, I eagerly shifted my career focus to directly influence the policies and programs that matter most to me - particularly those that address the disturbing trends in childhood obesity and inequity in access to healthy communities. And what better place to do this than with the Safe Routes Partnership! I have followed the growth of the Safe Routes Partnership since it launched in 2005 and I am thrilled that I can put all of my energy and ideas into helping expand the benefits of this fantastic initiative.

The timing of the Safe Routes Partnership’s expansion could not have been better as the future of federal support for Safe Routes to School and related health-based programs hangs in the balance. An optimist at heart, I see apparent set-backs as opportunities for growth. So regardless of the federal outcome, I strongly believe that the process for building support during these trials and tribulations on the Hill, coupled with our new capacity for expanded partnership on the state and regional levels will enable the development of deeper and more far-reaching collaboration than ever before. Collaboration is the key to success and is only possible if we work together to prevent stagnation of action due to a partisan agenda. My optimism is bolstered by the growing synergy between bike/ped, transportation and health-based initiatives, and I am certain that over the next several years you will see the Safe Routes Partnership’s state and regional teams provide their most far-reaching influence. 

As the network director, I look forward to the limitless opportunities before us as we embrace the capacity to reach a broad range of stakeholders, creating a healthy future for our children and communities. I look forward to updating you in my upcoming blogs on state and regional policy successes, research and various other hot topics affecting the Safe Routes to School movement.