Better Know a Cultivator! – Kevin Shepherd Edition

 That's Kevin!

That's Kevin!


What are you most excited about accomplishing with Cultivate Collaborative?

I'm excited about bringing together people, concepts and case studies that can bridge the gaps between the education efforts of Strong Towns, the Incremental Development Alliance's work to grow small developers, and tactical projects that need to be turned into more permanent places and programs. We want to give the people who understand biz as usual is not sustainable and who are ready to lead change the roadmap, tools and relationships they need to cultivate unique, healthy and resilient communities across this country.

What do you think makes Cultivate Collaborative different?

We are the opposite of status quo and the big firm mentality. We're tired of seeing the majority of organizations, firms and professionals continuing to do the same things over and over that created the fiscal, environmental and social stresses we're experiencing. We are not interested in following outdated standards, writing complex plans or designing expensive infrastructure projects that take years to get built with money cities don't have. We want to partner with community leaders to get impactful things done in less time with the resources you do have. 

What trend in planning/development would you like to see die in the next five years?

Transportation planning and road design focused almost exclusively on traffic counts and vehicle/driver safety. STROADS are killing people, places and city budgets. Let's get back to building attractive places for people and not cars.

What would you like to see becoming a trend in the next five years?

#VisionZero and narrower streets/lanes in general. We've got to stop engineers from designing streets that are not safe for pedestrians. To my fellow professional engineers out there, it's okay to put your thinking hat on and design something that doesn't blindly follow all the standards.

Who’s out there doing work that you admire?

There are several who are influencing the conversation and doing things on the ground that are making things better. Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU), Team Better Block, Street Plans Collaborative and John Simmerman at Active Towns are a few that come to mind, but my personal favorite is Strong Towns. They are pushing out some amazing educational content and provide a forum that's brought together people from different technical, political and societal backgrounds. It's been fun to watch the movement grow since I first stumbled on Chuck's blog back in 2010.

Way(s) your childhood predicted your current line of work:

My family moved a lot growing up, so I've lived in a number of cities, including a 2-year stint in London where we traveled around Europe. I've continued to travel a lot for my work. Seeing so many different places is a big part of why I have the perspective I have today about the importance of place and designing for people first. I was also lucky enough to grow up when moms were still okay with kids running around unsupervised, riding bikes around the city, etc. I don't think many parents today understand the impact helicopter parenting and overprotection is having on their kids' ability to navigate the real world later in life. Somehow we have to get back to the default behavior of trusting our neighbors and each other and not framing our entire life around fear of the bad guy or the freak accident.

What’s your all-time favorite podcast?

Strong Towns and EntreLeadership are at the top of my list for regular podcasts. All-time favs are Serial and its spinoff S-Town. 

Music you’re listening to a lot right now?

I'm all over the place - I've got a mix of newer alternative stuff with 80s grunge and hair band stuff, country, jazz mixed in that I'll listen to. Most of the time, I'm either listening to podcasts or whatever my 12 year old daughter is playing...

Where’s your next vacation?

Have a family trip to Maui on the schedule next summer. May try to work in a trip to Orange Beach, Alabama or Seaside (FL) in the spring.

What’s your favorite street in your city?

I live in Rockwall, a suburb east of Dallas. Like most burbs, we don't have any true 'streets', but I'll go with our historic downtown square. The city recently completed infrastructure and streetscape improvements to the entire downtown area and added a pedestrian plaza that have made it more people-centric, and it's home to some pretty awesome shops, restaurants and events including the Farmers Market, Rib Rub BBQ competition, and regular outdoor concerts. As far as burbs go, it's a pretty cool place.

 San Jacinto Plaza, Rockwall, Texas  (Photo: Sutton Pictures)

San Jacinto Plaza, Rockwall, Texas (Photo: Sutton Pictures)

Your go-to weekend activity:

Mostly family stuff and watching my daughter's gymnastics competitions. I'm a huge college football fan, so that kills my Saturdays in the fall. I'll also hack balls around the golf course occasionally.

You’re at a backyard barbecue—what are you drinking?

There's not much better than cold beer with BBQ. I'm on a Shiner IPA and Lakewood Lager run at the moment. 

Best book you’ve read in the last two years:

Back of the Napkin, Originals and Essentialism have all stuck with me. Also plowed through the Hunger Games series. Katniss is a badass!

What’s the first app you open in the morning?

Feedly, Twitter and Facebook to skim news and posts over coffee, then Nozbe, Basecamp and Google Calendar for planning my day. 

Who's playing you in 'CULTIVATE! The Movie'?
Jimmy Fallon, except not wearing tight pants. Google it. You'll thank me later.


Kevin Shepherd is founder & CEO of VERDUNITY. Learn more about him here. Follow Kevin on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. See all of Kevin's posts.