We close out the profiles of ITE Southern District leaders with two individuals who were the lead coordinators of the “ITE Annual Meeting that never was” in New Orleans. Alison Catarella-Michel, PE, PTOE, PTP, RSP1 (F) is the President of Urban Systems in New Orleans, Louisiana, and Diane Hammonds, PE, PTOE (M) a Senior Engineer with Fenstermaker in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
I was able to get to know them at a Southern District Board meeting in New Orleans prior to the pandemic where we were brainstorming what the ITE Annual Meeting in their hometown would be like. Things change fast. That meeting will happen this week virtually, not in New Orleans. One thing I can say is there is a reason that New Orleans was selected for this meeting, and not the least of which is the leadership of both Alison and Diane. They are good buddies, some of the best promoters Louisiana could ever have, and deeply rooted in their community. Both trademark great leadership characteristics in their ability to balance many meaningful tasks in life and work, with positive attitudes, exuberance and passion. As women leaders in our industry they have navigated, with grace and courage, dealing with groups where they are the minority. While COVID-19 has brought on change quickly, enduring changes involve people, time and patience and they have been a part of the evolving changes in group leadership composition.
We are so fortunate to have Alison as an ITE leader. She currently is ITE Southern District’s secretary-treasurer, and has served as President of ITE’s Deep South Section as well as co-chair of the Biloxi District Annual Meeting local arrangements. Alison received both the Joseph M. Thomas Outstanding Young Member Award and the Marble J. Hensley Outstanding Individual Achievement Award from the Southern District in recognition of her service to members. She became a Principal of Urban Systems in 2006, and has mentored other organization leaders during her career, like Nicole Stewart. As she became President in 2012, Alison has been able to pursue many technical interests and share with her staff and clients knowledge of traffic signal designs, traffic impact analysis, traffic control devices plans, intelligent transportation systems, regional transportation microscopic simulation modeling, safety, congestion alleviation, interchange improvements, complete streets, and multi-modal facilities. Her thirst for learning and commitment to leadership led her to be a graduate of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business Program. Alison is a LeadershipITE graduate, authored material for the ITE Journal, and served ITE in various other committees. Additionally, she was previously on the Board of Governers of ACEC-L, served as President of Edward Hynes Charter Parent Teacher Organization, and is a graduate of Leadership Jefferson. Alison does this all with a smile on her face while making people feel inclusive and welcome.
Diane fills a room with positive, bubbling energy. I am talking super engaged in the industry and energetic. She is a native Louisianian and a graduate of the University of New Orleans. Diane has been a vital leader of ITE’s Deep South Section having been awarded the W. Hibbett Neel Award twice in recognition of outstanding service in the Deep South Section. Her ability to plan professional gatherings is phenomenal. Diane is active in several transportation groups being awarded the True GRIT Award for her contributions to Gulf Region ITS (and its President), President’s Award from the Women's Transportation Seminar, and a representative to ACEC’s Southern District. Her professional emphasis has been on traffic impact assessments, traffic signal designs, traffic signal system designs, traffic simulations modeling, access management reviews, safety studies, roundabout analysis and design, as well as permit reviews and coordination. Being a proud mom, she has a passion for child safety in vehicles through support of proper seat use and seat belts.
Benjamin Franklin once said if you want something done, ask a busy person. Alison and Diane are incredible examples of this quote. When we all finally gather together again you can talk with Diane about leading a one-person office, experiences with DOTs, Army Corp and consulting, the Saints and Girl Scouts. With Alison there are the kiddos sports, dance, recreation, board games and travel (Disney), and her fun with concerts (Maroon 5 and Jazz Fest), NOLA parades, - and becoming a Zion Williamson fan. Both Diane and Alison define how being welcoming and making others feel like they belong shapes your community.