General Session Speakers

James Freed, City Manager
Port Huron

Freed-James-225x300James Freed, as the chief administrative office for the City of Port Huron, provides leadership to City staff, oversees the City’s daily operations, develops annual operating budgets, plans long-term capital improvements projects, and oversees project development and execution.

Freed has a decade of leadership experience in both the public and private sectors. This gives him a unique perspective on local government as well as the needs of the business community.

Freed holds a Bachelor of Science from Indiana Wesleyan University (IWU) in Marion, Indiana, with an emphasis in Political Science. Freed has authored numerous papers on local public policy and its affect on international relations, social work, and the social and economic needs of rural and low income populations.

In addition to his formal education, Freed has proven experience in economic development, community development, government administration, fiscal policy, grant writing, collective bargaining negotiations, project management, environmental protection, and constituent relations.


Joe Minicozzi, Principal
Urban 3


Joe Minicozzi is the principal of Urban3, a consulting company created by Asheville, NC real estate developer Public Interest Projects. Urban3’s work in pioneering geo-spatial representation of economic productivity has prompted a paradigm shift in understanding the economic potency of urbanism and the value of well-designed cities. Their studies of cities in the United States and Canada have affected the reevaluation of public policy and a broader understanding of market dynamics created by tax policy.

Minicozzi is a sought after lecturer on city planning issues, and his work has been featured in numerous journals and at international conferences. He is a founding member of the Western North Carolina-based nonprofit Asheville Design Center and he holds a Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Miami and Master of Architecture and Urban Design from Harvard University.

Claire Nelson, Founder
Urban Consulate

Nelson-Claire-300x225Claire Nelson is founder of the Urban Consulate, a new project to foster civic and cultural exchange between cities, starting with Detroit, New Orleans, and Philadelphia, thanks to support from Knight Cities. Over the last decade, Nelson has been a passionate advocate for quality of place and civic engagement in Detroit, leading projects including Urban Innovation Exchange, Open City, Declare Detroit, Mind the Gap, Shop Midtown and Bureau of Urban Living.

As past publisher of Model D, Nelson hosted the monthly Speaker Series on urban issues and the “On the Ground” series on neighborhood change, as well as the “Next Big Thing” showcase and annual IdeaLab events. She has also served on advisory boards for Hatch Detroit, D:hive and Invest Detroit’s Urban Retail Loan Fund.

A Chicagoland native, Nelson studied architecture and urbanism at Smith College and Columbia University,graduating from the Shape of Two Cities Program in New York & Paris. Before moving to Detroit, she worked for the National Building Museum in Washington D.C. and The Skyscraper Museum and Van Alen Institute in New York City, where she coordinated the first Creative Cities conference a month after 9/11. Her work has been covered by the New York Times, CNN, USA Today and Next City, and featured in the book For the Love of Cities and the film Lemonade Detroit. In 2015, she was a visiting scholar at the American Academy in Rome and a speaker at TEDxDetroit.

Frank Peterson, City Manager


Peterson-Frank-200x300Frank Peterson has served as the Muskegon City Manager since September 2013. He has worked in local government management since 2004, previously serving as the city manager in both Grant, Michigan and Springfield, Michigan.

A native of Flint, Michigan, Peterson is very interested in community and neighborhood reinvestment and revitalization, and believes strongly in the powerful effects of community outreach and community involvement.

Peterson holds an MPA from Western Michigan University.







Breakout Session Speakers

Click on a speaker’s name to read a short professional biography.

Jeff Aranoff, Founder, Sidewalk Ventures

Angela Barbash, Founder, ReConsider

Michael Brown, Community Development Director, City of Ironwood

Nikole Brown, Legislative Associate, State Affairs, Michigan Municipal League

Harry Burkholder, Program Coordinator, Land Information Access Association

Katherine Czarnecki, Director, Community Development, Michigan Economic Development Corporation

Luke Forrest, Program Manager, Michigan Municipal League

Karen Freeman-Wilson, Mayor, Gary, Indiana

Debra Horner, Project Manager, UM Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy

Chris Hackbarth, Director, State Affairs, Michigan Municipal League

John LaMacchia, Legislative Associate, State Affairs, Michigan Municipal League

Summer Minnick, Director, External Relations and Federal Affairs, Michigan Municipal League

Richard Murphy, Program Coordinator, Michigan Municipal League

Lauren Trible-Laucht, City Attorney, Traverse City

Nathan Triplett, East Lansing Mayor & V.P., Michigan Municipal League Board of Trustees

Sarah Triplett, Director, Public Policy, Creative Many

Michelle Watterworth, Partner, Plante Moran

Matt Zone, Councilman, Cleveland, OH & National League of Cities 2nd Vice President