New Sensation: Dean Porter, City of Saint Paul and Humphrey School of Public Affairs

Posted on December 2, 2013

ELGL green icon

We’re back with a new “New Sensation” feature. We’ve updated the questions based on your feedback. You’ll now learn about the best YouTube videos on the web, read about gift ideas for the holiday season, and learn about the career accomplishments of our new members.  As a reminder, we developed this feature to introduce you to new ELGL members and as a way on connecting ELGL members with similar interests.


Dean Porter

Dean Porter

Research Intern – Planning and Economic Development at City of Saint Paul

Master of Urban and Regional Planning, Expected 2014 – Humphrey School of Public Affairs

Education:  Grinnell College, B.A., with honors, Phi Beta Kappa, Anthropology and University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, Master’s degree, Urban and Regional Planning

Connect: LinkedIn

Background Check on Dean

Dean Porter is a Master of Urban and Regional Planning student at the Humphrey studying housing, community development and land use planning. He is currently a Research Intern for the City of St. Paul Planning and Economic Development department.

Dean has a strong interest in community participation, sustainability and social justice as they relate to urban and regional planning. He has further pursued these interests at the University of Minnesota through his involvement with Resilient Communities Project and as a CURA Research Assistant for the West Side (St. Paul) Community Organization.

Prior to attending the Humphrey School, Dean managed social justice and human services programming for CAPI, a community-based nonprofit serving the Twin Cities refugee community. Dean has a Bachelor’s degree in Anthropology from Grinnell College in Grinnell, Iowa. He hopes to bring a new perspective to the UMore Park Academic Mission Advisory Board.

Lightning Round with Dean

Tell us about three of your biggest accomplishments.

  • Making community data on Saint Paul more accessible to key stakeholders and the public. One way I’ve done this is researching and writing the department’s “Market Watch” report. Saint Paul Market Watch helps diverse stakeholders (e.g. business groups, real estate interests, community groups, and residents) better understand the ways our city is changing and developing.
  • Completing the “30 days of biking” challenge during an exceptionally snowy April this past year. I’m a big proponent of biking to get around, not just for exercise, so it was a lot of fun to be part of a movement celebrating everyday biking. To complete the challenge you had to bike somewhere every day – however short or long – and then share your adventures online.

Top three holiday gifts that you’ve received. Given?

Received: homemade chocolate truffles from my sister, Roth IRA account from my parents to help me boost my retirement savings, and a trip to New Zealand that my fiancée and I gifted to each other last year (it was a well deserved break between finishing a full time job and starting graduate school full time).

Given: Planning a camping trip last summer to reunite my immediate family (we live in three different states right now), and a homemade end table my dad and I made for my fiancée.

(Complete this sentence) I feel old when I………see young children using smartphones. I am still amazed I can use my phone to check the bus schedule!

Tell us about two mistakes that you’ve made that we can learn from.

I worked for a nonprofit social service agency where part of my job was writing grant proposals. I successfully applied for a few small project-based grants that were tangentially related to some of our programs. In order to fulfill the grant requirements, staff had to do extra work that took time away from other responsibilities. In retrospect these grants probably resulted in a net loss of time and resources for the organizations. I think it’s pretty common for organizations to chase funding, and this experience underscores the importance of having a strategic process for seeking outside funding opportunities.

In the same position I did a lot of networking and built collaborative relationships with many outside organizations. As a young public service professional I was constantly being told the importance of organizational collaboration and collective impact of organizations on large issues. Although many of the relationships were very valuable, some collaborative relationships were less useful for either organization involved. I took a community engagement course in graduate school that has helped me better understand how to work with stakeholders more strategically. In local government I think it is very important to always be mindful of the organizations and people you are working with, what their interests are, and how all of these interests relate to your broader mission and goals.

How did you hear about ELGL?

I’m currently in graduate school for urban planning and am starting to build a network and think about post-graduate opportunities. I found ELGL online while looking for networking organizations. I joined because I wanted to be part of a growing organization that is a bit more intimate than the American Planning Association (APA), which is a huge nationwide organization.

Give us a few of your favorite YouTube videos.

  • This one is about a biker in NYC who got a ticket for not riding in the bike lane (which is not illegal). Casey Neistat films himself encountering various hazards while trying to consistently ride in the bike lane.
  • Saint Paul Mayor Chris Coleman won this past election with about 80% of the vote, but he faced a colorful cast of opponents in this candidate forum.


Our annual conference will be held in October 2014. Name three topics or speakers that we should consider.

  • The impact of light rail transit on economic development and housing.
  • Community indicators for measuring sustainability and other local policy goals. Data driven Detroit is one example of a coordinated effort to track sustainability indicators:

(Complete these phrases) Best thing about the 80’s was…….

  • Best thing about the 90’s was……Lunchables – I was jealous because my parents never bought them!
  • Best thing about the 00’s was… efforts to rebuild and revitalize New Orleans.

Name three of your mentors and describe them in five words.

  • Professor Ryan Allen: critically evaluates planning and governance.
  • Jake Reilly, Senior Planner at the City of Saint Paul: directly applies research to problems.
  • Professor Jon Andelson: taught me about sustainable communities.

First concert you ever saw? Last concert you saw?

The first concert I went to was to see a local band at a small rock venue in Des Moines – my family lived in nearby suburb. The band wasn’t very good, but I remember being very excited to stay out late in the city to hear loud music. I recently saw a Van Morrison cover band and “A.M. Rynehart” play at the Whiskey Junction in Minneapolis. The band is named after one of my grad school buddies morning kindergarten class.



Fast forward one year, what will factor into your decision on whether to renew your ELGL membership?

I’m currently living in Minneapolis and am looking at employment opportunities the Chicago metro so I can be near family there. I notice that ELGL has a new Midwest program assistant and I am hoping the group attracts more Midwest membership and has more events in this region. I’ll be happy to be involved in the group regardless – particularly since I think we can learn a lot from local governance and planning in Oregon – but I think I would get more out of the group if its Midwest presence is strengthened.

What questions should we have asked?

I think it would be interesting and revealing to ask members what they love most about the community they currently live in and why.

Close window