Ron Thomas, FAICP

“Let us take long views, and we shall have courage to press forward in the work of improvement. When we look back a few months, or one or two years, we do not always see the direction in which the current of civic life is moving.”
Richard T. Ely, The Coming City, 1902

Chicago had Richard Ely (1884-1943), and Atlanta had Joan Herron (1950-2019). Ely, the visionary founder of land economics and Lambda Alpha International, had a sense of where the world was headed such as described in his 1902 book The Coming City and his seminal Elements of Land Economics in 1926. Ely, we should remember, championed not only practical economics but also political and social reform to achieve the good city with ideas decades ahead of the times. For instance, it is easy to forget that “economics’ is derivative of a deeper and more broad meaning than simple dollars and cents. The word derives from the Greek “okionomia,” which means “household management” or “management of home (family) affairs” as Ely himself articulates in his writings.

Embracing this inclusive concept of economics as Ely did in his vision of the future, Joan put those principles to work in her professional, community and personal life bringing that legacy from Chicago when she moved to Atlanta in 2008. Here she had a mission to cultivate an energy and optimism for the 21st century future of Atlanta. After her courageous fight for life, Joan has left us to pick-up and carry on that mission into the future.

Chicago and Atlanta – two major American cities – maintain some common characteristics. Both are intent to get things done, both cultivate a self-sufficiency and both function on a first name basis across all sorts on lines and divisions.

Joan began her urban planning career at one Chicago’s incubators for planning leadership in that region at Trkla Pettigrew Allen & Payne, a firm carrying forward the Chicago heritage of creative architecture and urban design in planning. But, here Joan, early on, embraced the practical Chicago tradition of knowing great cities also need to be based in a sound economy (in its true broad sense) and was a founding member of today’s Ely Chapter of Lambda Alpha International, bringing together a network that would help her cultivate her commitment. Her career would hold steady pursuing that goal.

With a senior career helping to build better places on a sound footing, she knew Atlanta could also benefit from the collegial network Lambda Alpha brings to a community, and in turn, Joan connected Atlanta to LAI’s national and international networks including sponsoring the first Atlanta Land Economics Weekend in 2014.

Joan’s family, including her partner Bob Price, two children and four grandchildren, will miss a guiding light in their clan and miss her persistent energy and enthusiasm. But, it is now up to all of us who knew her and have benefited from that leadership, to take up her cause and now grow the Atlanta Chapter of Lambda into a recognized guide and beacon for the coming city and its legacy have inherited.