Peer Leadership Network

The Concept

​​Despite often being advanced in their “regular” careers, recently appointed planning commissioners or board of appeals members may feel overwhelmed by their new responsibilities. To address this issue, the Maryland Planning Commissioners Association (MPCA) developed the Peer Leadership Network (Network). The Network is designed to lower the intimidation factor for new appointees and reduce the discomfort of asking novice questions in a room filled with more senior commissioners/board members.

By pairing individuals or small peer groups with a seasoned leader, the Network nurtures an environment where experienced individuals are available to answer pragmatic questions (“How do I read this site plan?” or “What is a PFA and how does that direct development in the community?”), share anecdotes (“How I Handled the Hairiest Public Meeting Ever”), and offer general, non-project-specific advice. The Network implements the MPCA objectives of facilitating the sharing of best practices and strengthening the bonds of Maryland’s citizen planner community  


​The Network structure, and the Peer-Leader interaction, is left to participants; it can be as formal or informal as desired. Interactions can be virtual or in-person gatherings. They can be on an as-needed basis or take on the form of a regular monthly one-on-on meet-up. ​

The benefits of joining the network are numerous. They include networking, camaraderie that comes with shared experiences, the transfer and exchange of knowledge, and confidence/skill-building in otherwise unfamiliar territory. As with all forms of teaching, leaders and teachers often report getting as much out of an experience as their students, or in this case, their peers.  


​​From a Peer:

“The peer-leadership connection has been much more than I anticipated. First, my peer leader’s vast knowledge and experience in multiple jurisdictions has helped to broaden my perspective and understanding. We have spoken twice on the phone and met once in person. (Our in-person meeting was scheduled for an hour, but it went well beyond that...thanks to his generosity!) 

He gave me homework and resource references, but above all he is giving me greater confidence in my role! Finally, he made it clear that he would make time for additional engagements and the onus is on me to circle back with him, which I plan to do in the next few weeks. 

From a Peer Leader:

“​My peer and I had a good conversation that lasted over an hour. We discussed many aspects of planning relating to citizen participation on a planning board, including the Maryland Land Use Statutes as it regulates local planning practice. She appeared to be well-versed concerning the many aspects of local planning and I was able to learn from her experience as hopefully she was of mine.

The biggest takeaway for me was the need for a planner to stay focused on the issues at hand and retain the capacity to assess both the pros and cons of a given situation as they relate to planning law and avoid viewpoints based on peer pressure or emotional outlook. We agreed to reconnect periodically to discuss pertinent aspects of citizen planning.”

To sign up as a Peer Leader (experienced citizen planner) or Peer (new citizen planner) please fill out this form and someone from the MPCA or Maryland Department of Planning will contact you.

​​Our Peer Leaders 

​Below are brief bios of those who have volunteered to share their expertise and serve as Peer Leaders. Several are MPCA Board members, plus several more who serve on boards or commissions from around the state. All boast impressive experience: 

​​Danny Winborne, MPCA President and Conference Planning Committee Chairman 

In addition to serving as MPCA President, Danny Winborne is also chairman of its annual conference planning committee. Danny is currently vice-chair of the City of Gaithersburg Planning Commission, having served as a commissioner since 2001.

In this role, Danny helps direct the growth and development of the city by reviewing all annexation requests, zoning applications, subdivision plats, development review plans, applications, and plans for municipal improvement. He frequently attends joint public hearings and work sessions with the mayor and city council on current and long-range planning and development issues. The commission is supported by the City Planning Division of the Department of Planning & Code Administration.

Danny has worked in the information technology field in both the public and private sectors for the past 35 years. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics (with a concentration in systems analysis and design) from Morgan State University, a Master of Science in Business Information Technology Management from Johns Hopkins University, and a Master of Business Administration from John Hopkins University.

About being a peer leader, Danny says, “sharing my knowledge and understanding of the citizen planning process not only helps others, but also helps me grow in my own knowledge and understanding!” 

​​Doug Wright, MPCA Treasurer 

Doug Wright has been a member of the MPCA board for six years and served as treasurer for the past five years. Doug was born and raised in Hagerstown and since 1988, he has served on the City of Hagerstown’s Planning Commission as chairperson since 1990.

Although he recently announced his retirement from the planning commission and MPCA’s leadership, Doug has generously agreed to act as a peer leader. With 35 years of experience to draw upon, Doug will undoubtedly be a great resource for those newly appointed to commissions or boards.

Doug adds that becoming a peer leader means, “helping people who are in the shoes I once filled, dedicated to their community and eager to learn, but new to the details and rigors of citizen planning.” 

​​Roxanne Hemphill, MPCA Secretary

Roxanne Hemphill has been on the Town of Mount Airy Planning Commission since 2015. Prior to that she was a member of the board of appeals for 12 years, with nine of those years as chairperson. Roxanne holds a Master of Education from McDaniel College and has been a licensed real estate agent serving the Maryland and Northern Virginia region since 1990. She is certified by the National Association of Realtors as a short sale and foreclosure specialist. She is also active in her church where she sings in various choirs and serves on several committees. ​

Roxanne says she’s looking forward to being a peer leader because, “I want my fellow commissioners to realize that their work makes a difference and is appreciated, even when a hard public meeting might make it seem otherwise.” 


Elizabeth Georg, MPCA Member 

An MPCA member for seven years, Elizabeth (Liz) Georg is an attorney at Deep Creek Title Group in Oakland, Maryland. Liz is actively involved in the Garrett County community and is a director on the Garrett County Chamber of Commerce and First United Wealth Management Advisory Council. Additionally, she serves as chair of the Garrett County Economic Development Corporation and was appointed as a member to the Garrett County Planning Commission in 2016. Liz earned her juris doctorate from Vermont Law School and her undergraduate degree in political science from Idaho State University.

Liz says the reason she is volunteering is, “I’d like to act as a peer leader to assist those newly appointed to commissions as an educator, focusing on the role and responsibilities of a commissioner.” 

​​Bills Butts, MPCA Vice President and Mt. Airy Planning Commissioner

Bill joined the MPCA Board in early 2018 and currently serves as vice-president. He has also been a member of the Mt. Airy Planning Commission since 2010, was the chair from 2011-16, and directed an update to town’s master plan. 

In his professional capacity as a Registered Financial Advisor and Licensed Insurance Broker, Bill designs and develops financial programs and plans for individuals and small companies responsive to their financial goals and needs. Bill is very active in civic and youth programs in his community.

Bill says that he looks forward to supporting the Peer Leadership network and learning and understanding the perspectives of newer citizen planners and the benefits that understanding brings to both the peer and peer leader.  


Kathleen Seay, Charles County, Board of Appeals Member

Kathleen Seay is both on the Charles County Board of Appeals and a professional planner, specializing in cultural resources and land preservation. 
Kathleen believes both are equally important roles and stresses the importance of citizens participating in local government so they can speak their truth. Better community engagement and encouraging child and youth participation in community planning are some of Kathleen’s passions and served as the focus of her master’s thesis.
She has served on the Charles County Board of Appeals from 2018-2022 and since 2018 has been a board member of the Maryland Association of Historic District Commissions.
Kathleen looks forward to being a peer leader because she thinks, “Civic service and our ability to serve our communities is a privilege that everyone should be able to partake in and help craft, thus best reflecting the people to which our local governments serve.”  

​​Michael Pellegrino, Indian Head, Board of Zoning Appeals Member  

M​ichael Pellegrino is an architect, registered in Kentucky, Maryland, Virginia, and Delaware and is also a certified planner.

As president of PAS Architecture/Planning, LLC, Michael has more than 30 years of professional practice in architecture and community planning. He has helped craft many comprehensive plans and zoning ordinances in Maryland, Virginia, and Kentucky. He is currently on the Indian Head Board of Zoning Appeals, is the past chair of its planning commission and has also served on the historic preservation commission and the green building committee in La Plata.
Michael’s interest in being a peer leader is driven by his belief that to successfully implement plans or ordinances requires a citizen planner to clearly understand the relationship between the public and private sectors, as they relate to managing growth.
To sign up as a Peer Leader (experienced citizen planner) or Peer (new citizen planner) please fill out this form and someone from the MPCA or Maryland Department of Planning will contact you.

To learn more about the MPCA, the Peer Leadership Network and how to become involved, please contact Joe Griffiths, Local Assistance and Training Planner, at To sign up as a Peer Leader (experienced citizen planner) or Peer (new citizen planner) please fill out this form​ and someone from the MPCA or Maryland Department of Planning will contact you.  

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