Home » Press Releases » Center for Community Progress Welcomes Four New Members and Incoming Chairperson to Board of Directors (Press Release)

Center for Community Progress Welcomes Four New Members and Incoming Chairperson to Board of Directors (Press Release)

December 17, 2013

Charles Village _Let Ideas Compete_flickr_12.20.2010

Flint, MI: As 2013 draws to a close, the Center for Community Progress is pleased to announce the appointment of four national urban revitalization leaders to the organization’s Board of Directors over the course of this year, as well as the election of a new Board Chairperson.

Bringing a range of expertise to their roles, the new board members are: Margaret Dewar, Professor of Urban and Regional Planning at the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning; Presley Gillespie, Executive Director of the Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation; Erika Poethig, Institute Fellow and Director of Urban Policy Initiatives at the Urban Institute; and Scot Spencer, Assistant Director for Advocacy and Influence at the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

They join current board members William A. Johnson, Board Chair, CEO of Strategic Community Intervention, LLC, and former Mayor of Rochester, New York; Lisa Levy, Secretary; Michael Tierney, Treasurer; Geoff Anderson, Board Member and President and CEO of Smart Growth America; and Ellen Lee, Board Member and President of EML Enterprises, LLC, at the organization’s helm. Ms. Lee will step into the role of Board Chairperson on January 1, 2014.

“Margi, Presley, Erika and Scot have each demonstrated leadership and innovation in their fields,” said William A. Johnson, Board Chair. “It is fitting, and exciting, to welcome them to the Board of Directors as Community Progress prepares to enter its fifth year with an expanded commitment to lifting up new solutions for blight and vacancy.”

“We’re so pleased to welcome Margi, Presley, Erika and Scot to Community Progress’ Board of Directors and to welcome Ellen as she steps into this new leadership role,” said Tamar Shapiro, Community Progress President & CEO. “Each brings unique perspectives and experiences that will benefit communities around the country that are working to revitalize vacant and problem properties.”

“I am honored to step into the role of Board Chair in 2014,” said Ellen Lee, incoming Board Chair.  “I am excited to work with my fellow board members to help guide Community Progress in its critical mission to transform blighted properties into the assets they can become to benefit the communities we serve.”

Biographies of Margaret Dewar, Presley Gillespie, Erika Poethig and Scot Spencer are below.

Margaret Dewar is Professor of Urban and Regional Planning in the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning. Her research focuses on American cities that have lost large shares of their peak population and employment and now have extensive blighted buildings and vacant land. With June Manning Thomas, Dewar co-edited The City After Abandonment (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013), which addresses three questions:  What are cities becoming after abandonment? Why these outcomes? What should abandoned areas of cities become? She has also written numerous articles on planning and policy in the context of extreme urban decline. In a current research project, Dewar is investigating whether and how resident-led efforts preserved middle- and working-class neighborhoods in Detroit in the context of huge numbers of mortgage foreclosures. In a separate project, she is studying physical evidence of care in Detroit neighborhoods with extensive disinvestment to consider reasons for differences and to suggest alternative policies toward such areas. Dewar has degrees in Urban Planning from Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Erika C. Poethig is Institute Fellow and Director of Urban Policy Initiatives at the Urban Institute. In this role, she assembles experts from throughout the Institute to tackle policy challenges facing urban America in the 21st century. She leads efforts to better use the Institute’s vast resources to inform mayors, county executives, and local civic leaders across regional economies who are working on the ground to spur growth, expand opportunities, and improve the lives of people in their communities. Most recently, Poethig served as acting assistant secretary for policy development and research at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, where she led 150 staff responsible for research, policy analysis and program development assistance, and information collection and analysis on housing needs, economic conditions, and housing market conditions at the regional, metropolitan, and local levels. She was also a leading architect of the White House Council for Strong Cities and Strong Communities. Poethig was a Phi Beta Kappa from the College of Wooster, a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Vienna, and graduated with honors with a Masters Degree in Public Policy from the University of Chicago.

Presley L. Gillespie is Executive Director of the Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation. In his role, he is responsible for ensuring that the organization develops and executes its long-range strategic plan, as well as for day-to-day operations, management of development projects, regulatory compliance, liaison with governmental bodies and all public relations. Gillespie comes to YNDC after a successful 18 year banking career, primarily focused on community development lending and community revitalization. Previously, he served as Vice President for KeyBank where he was responsible for identifying, structuring and closing community development/commercial real estate loans that ultimately led to the creation of affordable housing, economic development and job creation. His prior banking experience includes, Vice President, Middle Market Commercial Banking for a $15 billion dollar banking institution, where he managed a $50 million dollar commercial lending portfolio. Gillespie has structured over $60 million dollars in community development lending, including real estate developers, non-profit corporations, and corporate banking clients. In 2011, Gillespie was named “CDC Staff Member of the Year” by the Ohio Community Development Corporation Association. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Organizational Communication from Youngstown State University. Gillespie has resided for 17 years in Youngstown, Ohio with his wife Nora and their two children.

Scot Spencer is Associate Director for Advocacy and Influence for The Annie E. Casey Foundation. From 2002 to 2010, Spencer was Manager of Baltimore Relations at Casey, where the Foundation’s work in Baltimore has been focused on the East Baltimore revitalization effort to strengthen community and economic development in an historic working class neighborhood. Spencer’s previous experience includes Transportation Specialist for the Environmental Defense Fund, Deputy Director for Historic East Baltimore Community Action Coalition, and careers in private architectural practice, community development and university relations in upstate New York. He currently chairs The Funders’ Network for Smart Growth and Livable Communities and Smart Growth America and serves on a number of other boards and commissions. Spencer holds a Bachelors Degree in Architecture and a Masters Degree in Urban and Environmental Studies from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.


About Center for Community Progress

Founded in 2010, the Center for Community Progress is the only national 501(c)3 nonprofit organization solely dedicated to building a future in which entrenched, systemic blight no longer exists in American communities. The mission of Community Progress is to ensure that communities have the vision, knowledge, and systems to transform blighted, vacant, and other problem properties into assets supporting neighborhood vitality. As a national leader on solutions for blight and vacancy, Community Progress serves as the leading resource for local, state and federal policies and best practices that address the full cycle of property revitalization, from blight prevention, through the acquisition and maintenance of problem properties, to their productive reuse. More information is available at

Get the latest tools, resources, and educational opportunities to help you end systemic vacancy, delivered to your inbox.