City and Regional Planning

Running for Office with a Planning Perspective

Thursday, October 24, 2019 6:00pm
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Meyerson Hall, B1

Ever think about running for office, and whether a degree in city planning is a good foundation?  Please join us for a conversation with Samantha Whitfield (CPLN ’19), Manisha Bewtra (CPLN '05) and  Jamie Gauthier (CPLN ‘04) to learn about their experiences running for—and possibly winning—elected office this year.  They will talk with us about how they decided to run, what they learned along the way, and how their grounding in the field of city planning has helped them to get where they are today.  Join us!


Jamie Gauthier is the Democratic Nominee for Philadelphia City Council’s 3rd District. 

Jamie grew up in West Philly. It's where she's raising her two sons. It's where her parents instilled in her the importance of education and working with others to build a strong community. It's where she learned how important it is to stand up for those too often pushed aside. After graduating from Central High School, Jamie received her undergraduate degree in Accounting from Temple University and her Masters in Urban Planning from the University of Pennsylvania.

Jamie founded Mommy Grads, a program dedicated to helping single moms handle the struggles of raising children while attending college. The program provided mentorships and stipends to ensure women graduated and succeeded. She served at Philadelphia Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), where she helped create hundreds of units of affordable housing and good-paying jobs for Philadelphians. She also served as the Executive Director of the Sustainable Business Network of Greater Philadelphia, where she helped to promote and grow businesses committed to the welfare of people and the environment. And as the Executive Director of the Fairmount Park Conservancy, Jamie worked with over 100 volunteer park friends groups to steward and care for neighborhood parks across the city, and led the organization in carrying out improvements in West Fairmount Park. 

West Philly shaped Jamie's life, and inspired her to dedicate her career fighting for fairness, equality, and justice. From helping single moms get through college, to creating safe, accessible housing, to creating more green space in Philly, Jamie Gauthier has the experience, the fresh ideas, and the drive to deliver for our communities.


Samantha Whitfield is an entrepreneur, activist, community organizer and longtime resident of Willingboro residing in Buckingham Park. Educated in the Willingboro public school system, Samantha furthered her education completing an Associate’s degree in Early Childhood Education from Burlington County College and later earning a Bachelor’s in Sociology at Rutgers University. After college, Samantha returned to Willingboro starting her career working for The Girl Scouts of Central & Southern NJ as a Leadership Development specialist.  In 2011 she transitioned to the pharmaceutical industry, pursuing a career in clinical trial management at BioClinica, Inc.  Samantha's drive, goal oriented nature and diligent work-ethic did not go unnoticed in the workplace and she was quickly promoted from entry-level to management in 3 years.    

In addition to advancing her career Samantha maintained her commitment to service and began volunteering for Black Girls Run!, a nationwide organization that encourages and inspires African-American women to live a healthy lifestyle. Her dedication to the movement  led to her appointment as an ambassador of the local South Jersey chapter.  In 2014 Samantha took her running to a new level and became a part of "the other 1%" by running a full marathon. Charged by this accomplishment Samantha left the comfort of corporate America deciding to empower women through entrepreneurism. She established her own business, Sass Society, LLC. in 2015 hosting women’s social and networking events as a resource to empower women to live their best lives by providing unique opportunities to connect with like-minded women, create memories, explore talents, learn new skills and better themselves and their community. Samantha’s experience as a small business owner in town and dedication to serving Willingboro piqued her interest in municipal government inspiring her to pursue a Master’s degree in City Planning. She graduated in May 2019 from the University of Pennsylvania with a concentration in community and economic development and is excited to apply her skills for the betterment of Willingboro.


Manisha Bewtra, AICP is a city planner, equity advocate, and local official. She is a knowledgeable and experienced leader who brings different perspectives together, facilitates conversations around change, and generates data-informed solutions that move communities forward. She is a City Councilor-At-Large in Melrose, Massachusetts where in the November 2017 she was the first person of color ever elected to serve the City of Melrose. In 2019, she ran for Mayor of Melrose. During her tenure as a City Councilor, she’s applied her expertise in city planning to the variety of issues that come before the Council, such as recreational marijuana zoning, affordable housing, sewer and water infrastructure, dockless bike sharing, snow removal, investing in the city’s school, library, and public safety buildings, climate change and energy efficiency, and the city budget. She’s a champion of Melrose’s “One Community Open to All” motto and prior to her service as a City Councilor she was the Vice Chair of the Melrose Human Rights Commission. She takes care to connect national and global issues to home, showing how Melrose residents are deeply impacted by racism, bigotry, anti-immigrant rhetoric, and erasure of indigenous cultures, and champions efforts to tackle those issues locally and vocally. Outside her work on the City Council and her campaign for Mayor, Councilor Bewtra has worked with dozens of cities and towns across Massachusetts as a planner at the Massachusetts Housing Partnership and at the Metropolitan Area Planning Council. She has served as a Design Critic and studio instructor at the Harvard School of Design. Prior to moving to Massachusetts, she worked in Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Baltimore, and the Phoenix metro area. She has a BA from The University of Iowa in Economics and Art, a Master of City Planning degree from the University of Pennsylvania, and is a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners. She is also a graduate of Emerge Massachusetts, the Initiative for Diversity in Civic Leadership, and the Massachusetts Commonwealth Seminar, three organizations dedicated to training underrepresented groups to influence public policy and to run for office. Councilor Bewtra grew up in Iowa, identifies as an Indian-American woman, cis/het, mom, xennial, and #plannerd.