DeFuniak Springs Councilman Anthony Vallee getting training on sustainable community growth

Northwest Florida Daily News/USA TODAY NETWORK

DeFUNIAK SPRINGS — Anthony J. Vallée, an architect who serves on the DeFuniak Springs City Council, has been named to the second class of Smart Growth America’s Champions Institute.

Smart Growth America is a nonprofit organization headquartered in Washington, D.C., that works toward urban development policies that help create safe, equitable and sustainable community growth. The Champions Institute was created to help local elected officials define, design, build and evaluate "complete streets" in their communities, according to the organization.

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The "complete streets" approach integrates cars, public transit vehicles, bicyclists and pedestrians into a workable system that makes it easy to cross streets; walk to work, shops and schools; and allows bus and train systems to operate safely and on time. It considers the needs of older adults, people with disabilities, people who don't have access to a car and minority communities.

DeFuniak Springs City Councilman Anthony Vallée has been chosen to participate in the nonprofit Smart Growth America's Champions Institute, an effort to bring the "complete streets" transportation design philosophy to cities across the United States.

Vallée is one of many local elected officials from across the United States and its territories who will participate in the Champions Institute.

“We are pleased to welcome Anthony to the second class of the Champions Institute,” said John Robert Smith, senior policy adviser at Smart Growth America and the former mayor of Meridian, Mississippi. “His commitment to position (DeFuniak Springs) to become a more accessible, equitable and economically viable community for all residents was compelling. Experts in their field will provide him with valuable skills throughout the program, and share their own insights in developing more activity-friendly routes to everyday destinations.”

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Over the next six months, participants in the Champions Institute will attend virtual learning sessions that will make them experts in equity-based principles and train them on the fundamental steps to take to achieve Complete Streets in their community. Participants will also learn about best practices and challenges from across the country. 

Local leaders selected for the Champions Institute will learn from a broad array of national experts and former local elected officials in the areas of public health, policy, street design and project implementation. At the completion of the program, participants like Vallée will be experts in promoting community reforms to create safer streets for all users including pedestrians, cyclists, transit riders and motorists, according to Smart Growth America.

"Anthony's inclusion in the Smart Growth America program is wonderful for the DeFuniak Springs community,” said Chelsea Blaich, executive director of Main Street DeFuniak Springs. "Pedestrian safety and a community that is walkable and accessible for all is vital for our long-term success.”

The Champions Institute is funded through a cooperative agreement with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity. It is designed to support the CDC's Active People, Healthy Nation initiative through developing more activity-friendly routes to everyday destinations.