Craig Lawrence’s passion for urban planning began at an early age with Lego—as a child, he spent hours building towns with the colourful building blocks. He never would have dreamed his playtime passion could develop into full-time work. "I didn’t even know there was a field of study called planning until university…and not until my second year of university, when I started urban studies, did I realize you could find a job as a planner.”
Today Craig, who has a B.Sc. in human geography and a B.A. in urban studies, is completing his master’s degree in urban planning while working full time as the director of planning for the Town of Chestermere, Alberta. Despite the demands on his time, Craig enjoys helping Chestermere and its residents "grow smarter,” in a more environmentally conscious way. When at work, Craig spends much of his time revising the hundreds of development applications he receives and meeting with community developers.
He not only considers Chestermere’s current rapid growth, but also creates long-range plans for how it will look in years to come. But, Craig points out, planning is much more than simply having an idea of what a town should look like and carrying it out. "You have to be able to sell your arguments. You have to be technically sound, but your idea won’t go anywhere if you can’t convince people and you can’t sell your idea to either town council or residents.” Working in a burgeoning community has its drawbacks.
When the issue is a town’s development, people become outspoken. As Craig says, "You know you’re doing your job when everyone is angry with you.” According to him, this is bound to happen when you put the town’s development ahead of other needs, as he often must. But Craig thrives on the challenge. "[Environmental planners] have the ability to influence people’s opinions through development plans and public consultation. We are able to introduce new ideas about how we can develop in an environmentally sound way.” Because of being able to introduce new ideas, Craig says he will never outgrow his love of being able to shape and mould his community.