Alexis Garcia, AICP
Who knew that filling out a college application incorrectly would lead to a fulfilling career in urban planning? Alexis Garcia sure didn’t.
“I thought I was going to study architecture because it sounded interesting in high school,” Alexis said. “When I filled out the Texas A&M application, I checked the box that said, ‘environmental design and urban and regional planning.'”
Urban planning? That sounds like architecture! After showing up to class the first day, she soon realized she had checked the wrong box on her college application.
“It was interesting, and I wanted to stick around, so I stayed all four years (in the program),” she said.
Alexis joined Freese and Nichols in December 2015 after a two-year stint at the City of Mesquite, where she was a municipal planner managing project development, zoning changes and long-range planning initiatives. At a Texas American Planning Association (APA) conference, she heard Freese and Nichols’ Shad Comeaux speak at an emerging leaders in planning session.
“I thought, ‘Wow, he knows what he’s talking about, and he seems cool; I should meet him,'” she said.
“I was too nervous to introduce myself and didn’t know what I would say, so my friend pushed me into him – middle school style,” Alexis said.
Shad encouraged her to apply, and the rest is history.
Earning a certification by APA’s professional institute, the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP), shows that you are dedicated to the industry and knowledgeable in your craft. Alexis has been AICP-certified since 2019.
What types of projects do you typically work on?
To sum up, what I do as an Urban Planner is SimCity for real life. I am responsible for comprehensive plans, some with parks, downtowns, area development plans (ADP) and small area plans. I also work on codes and ordinances related to zoning and UDC subdivision regulations. On occasion, there will be campus plans as we do a lot of work with smaller college campuses.
What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
I’ve always enjoyed how each project I work on directly impacts the community. Whenever a project is complete, I know that I left the city with a plan that is genuinely designed by the community and will benefit them in the future. We’re upheld to everyone in the community, not just the planning director or City Council. We’re talking to families, residents and business owners about what they want to see in their community.
What’s your favorite part about working at Freese and Nichols?
The family aspect. I truly enjoy coming to work. My team and I enjoy being together and hanging out outside the office; it’s not always about work!
What are some of your favorite times spent with your colleagues?
We always have fun at our annual operating plan (AOP) get-together. Group 1155, Urban Planning, is spread throughout various offices, so for us to get together, we usually go to Fort Worth.
The Pearland office enjoys happy hours and participating in community events such as the Buffalo Bayou Regatta and the annual AIA Sandcastle Competition. We’ve also put together a volleyball team – and not to brag; we were champions two seasons ago – and a soccer league.
What does “Deliver Quality” mean to you in your role at Freese and Nichols?
It means delivering something meaningful and not just the standard. For example, no report is the same. I don’t copy and paste and then deliver it to the client. Each report is different because each community is different. I ensure it includes the community’s unique features that make it special.
What’s your advice for young professionals trying to get into the industry?
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Seek advice from more experienced professionals. What you learn in school builds a foundation, but to really know what a planner does, you need to network, build relationships and learn from your peers.
I don’t think I asked enough questions. I could have done better about putting myself out there and building relationships with people who are now my colleagues.
What’s something people would be surprised to know about you?
I’ve been in scouting since I was five days old. Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts uphold the same values I have. Both my parents were involved, as were my brother and sister. Growing up in scouting, the principles are loyalty, friendship, courtesy and kindness. So, it seemed pretty basic to have these principles because it’s how I lived my life. As I got older, I had the opportunity to mentor the younger boys and girls scouts. I was able to take them on their first camping trip and teach them skills that maybe they weren’t learning at home. Knowing that they’re gaining something out of it, and I was able to participate is rewarding.
What do you like to do for fun?
Any outdoor activity – volleyball, bike riding, hiking or rock climbing. If I have my way, I’m probably riding a bike somewhere.
I also like to watch Netflix with my cats, Leonardo, or Leo, and Luna.