Keynote Speakers

Thursday Lunch
Keynote Speaker: James M. Drinan, Executive Director of the American Planning Association

JAMES M. DRINAN, J.D., is the Executive Director of the American Planning Association. His 25-year career in association management includes 12 years as Executive Director of the American Association of Endodontists and its Foundation. Prior to the AAE, Drinan was the Associate Executive Director of the American Association of Orthodontists, served as the Director of Health Care and Government Relations for the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, and began his career as a federal attorney for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in Chicago.

Drinan’s career has focused on association leadership, governance, and strategic planning. He has had executive responsibility for a family of organizations, including associations, foundations, international federations, for-profit subsidiaries, and political action committees. He has served as general counsel, lobbyist, and spokesperson for associations at the state and federal levels.

A native of Boston, he received a B.A. in Political Science from Providence College and a J.D. from the DePaul University School of Law. He has written and lectured on association management, government relations, and legal issues.


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Welcome: Robert Azar, AICP- Deputy Director, Providence Department of Planning and Development

Friday Lunch
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) United States Congress

In the United States Senate, SHELDON WHITEHOUSE has earned a reputation as a fierce advocate for progressive values and a thoughtful legislator capable of reaching across the aisle to achieve bipartisan solutions. The Providence Journal described Sheldon as “a strong-willed and articulate member of the Senate on national issues and an energetic champion of Rhode Island economic and other interests.” Senator Whitehouse’s work in the Senate has focused on defense of Social Security and Medicare, delivery system reform in our health care system, confronting threats in cyberspace, the health of our oceans and coasts, campaign finance reform, and improved American infrastructure. Whitehouse has been at the center of bipartisan efforts to reform the criminal justice system, overhaul federal education law, and strengthen our nation’s cyber-security protection. In 2016, his comprehensive legislation to address the nation’s opioid abuse epidemic was signed into law. A member of the Senate Budget Committee since 2007, he has also worked closely with Republican members of the Committee to improve the Senate budget process. A graduate of Yale University and the University of Virginia School of Law, Sheldon served in multiple senior roles in the Sundlun Administration before his appointment by President Clinton as Rhode Island’s United States Attorney in 1994. Sheldon was elected Attorney General of Rhode Island in 1998, and in 2006 to the Senate, where he serves on the Budget Committee; the Environment and Public Works Committee; the Judiciary Committee; the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee; and the Special Committee on Aging. He and his wife Sandra, a marine biologist and environmental advocate, live in Newport. They have two children.

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Welcome: Mayor Jorge Elorza, City of Providence

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As Providence’s 38th Mayor, JORGE O. ELORZA has striven to build a Providence that works for all of its residents. Since taking office in January 2015, Mayor Elorza has prioritized education, ensuring transparency in city government, improving city services and providing a sound financial future for the capital city.

Under Mayor Elorza’s leadership, the city has practiced responsible budgeting practices and streamlined services across city departments resulting in the largest operating surplus realized in over 20 years ($10.3M). In November 2016, Fitch Ratings cited the city’s surplus, structural changes to the FY17 budget, and the elimination of risk of one-time revenues as rational to upgrade the city’s credit rating by two grades, from a BBB- to an A-.

As a member of the United States Conferences of Mayors, Mayor Elorza serves as Vice Chair of the Standing Committee on Community Development and Housing, co-chairs the Committee for Immigration Reform, and is a member of the Conference’s Advisory Board. The Mayor has been an outspoken national voice on issues such as immigration reform, healthcare, and environmental protection, placing an emphasis on the work done at the local level.

Born and raised in Providence, Mayor Elorza is a graduate of Classical High school, the University of Rhode Island, and Harvard Law School. Prior to being elected Mayor, he served as a Providence Housing Court Judge and co-founded the Latino Policy Institute while he served as a professor at Roger Williams Law School. As an avid cyclist Mayor Elorza frequently commutes by bicycle from his home in Silver Lake to City Hall.