Jitin KainAlumni Voices: Jitin Kain

Can you describe your career trajectory?

After graduating from Ball State in 2002 with a MURP degree, I began working for the City of South Bend as a long-range planner. At the time, South Bend did not have an active comprehensive plan and officials were in discussions on how to create the first one in over 40 years. Over the next few years, I worked closely with other planners, city officials and community members to create an inclusive community process to develop a vision and policy guide for the next 20 years.

In 2007 my role with the City evolved into a liaison with a local non-profit, Downtown South Bend, Inc., where I gained an insight into organizational and board management. Over the next four years, I built new partnerships with the local business community, managed grant programs and oversaw special events that highlighted the downtown even as it struggled to invite new investment.

In 2011, I transitioned to a more traditional planning role with the City in economic development, working on master planning the City’s new technology park and business growth. In 2012, a new Mayor took office and reorganized the community and economic development efforts into a new department which included for the first time a dedicated Office of Planning. I was named the Planning Director by Mayor Pete Buttigieg and had the pleasure of working on transformative placemaking and transportation projects, including the conversion of one-way streets in the downtown to two-way.

Our efforts to have a more collaborative approach between planners and engineers on projects and initiatives opened up a higher management position for me with the City in 2016. The position as Deputy Director of Public Works was an opportunity to expand my management and operational skills while continuing the important work to transform South Bend.

What does your current job entail?

As Deputy Director of Public Works, I provide oversight for departmental operations that include design and maintenance of public infrastructure, street maintenance, refuse collection and the provision of water and wastewater functions. Even in a Public Works role, I utilize planning knowledge, principles and ethics to make daily decisions on how to provide better services for our residents and improve their quality of life. I continue to work closely with the City’s Planning team on a wide variety of plans and initiatives.

Please tell us about a favorite project and why it makes you proud.

As Planning Director, I lead several planning and transportation initiatives in Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s administration, including the introduction of shared mobility options. I am proudest of the City’s Smart Streets initiative that realigned downtown South Bend streets, a $25 million project that has already resulted in over $150 million in private investment. I led the planning, design and implementation efforts of this project that has created a safe environment for pedestrians and bicyclists, allowing over 500 new residential units to be built in the last few years. New residents have brought vitality to the downtown which has further triggered retail and mixed-use investment.

In 2015, the Smart Streets project received a Mayor Challenge Award from the USDOT for “Overall Success” in creating streets that are safer and friendlier to pedestrians and bicyclists and for improving the community’s quality of life.

St Joseph Before Image
St Joseph after image

What advice do you have for students who want a career similar to yours?

My advice is to follow your passion and recognize that a planning degree is a great foundation that will open doors to multiple career opportunities, including complementary roles like mine that still allow you to make a difference in your community.

Do you have a favorite Ball State or CAP memory to share?

My favorite memory during my time with CAP is taking a field trip to Goshen, Indiana, with a small group to conduct a mini charrette. We worked with neighbors and community leaders to redesign a portion of US-33 that goes through the heart of the city. The charrette format of the exercise meant we had little time to get an understanding of issues and present ideas that the community could benefit from. Our team was welcomed by the community and applauded for the design solutions presented. The trip gave me my first real life exposure to collaborative planning and its power to transform communities.