The Participation Blog

The Hardest Newsletter We Have Ever Sent

It is with the utmost sadness that we must tell you Debra Duerr, our managing partner, our colleague, and our close friend, passed away in April after a sudden and brief illness.

Debra was an urban planner by education and an environmental planner throughout most of her 40-plus year career. Debra was passionate about providing a voice for people in environmental decision-making and she was an expert in federal environmental law, regulation and policy. She loved her profession and took the work very seriously without ever once taking herself seriously.

Debra was exceptionally good at what she did; highly intelligent and analytical. She had an uncanny ability to traverse technical complexities, conflicting points of view, and high emotions to create logical conclusions and resolutions. Teams of people who worked with Debra marveled at the value of her insights. She had a way of sitting back, listening carefully, and speaking last, having found simple, practical, essential solutions that everyone could support.

When we came together to form The Participation Company, Debra was the logical choice to navigate among the other healthy egos and keep our collective business affairs on track.

She was a charter member of the International Association for Public Participation, serving on the US Board of Directors as a founder of the Grand Canyon Chapter, and a member of the Professional Certification Task Force. Her presence there will be sorely missed.

Every group needs a quiet, wise voice, especially those with strong opinions and personalities. Debra was that voice for The Participation Company; always listening, hearing everything, missing nothing, and finding the precise moment to ask the right questions. As a planner at heart, she knew how to get to the core of issues and the essence of problems. Losing that voice, losing that person, is not something we will ever get over. It is something we will have to learn to live with.

Beyond just her work, Debra was creative, well-traveled, fearlessly adventurous and eternally joyous. A terrific chef, great communicator, wonderful writer, voracious reader, lover of people, a loving and well-loved daughter, sister, surrogate grandmother, and the best friend any of us could ever have wished for.

Debra’s passing leaves a hole in all of us, but her presence was a lasting gift for everyone she touched.

She made us a better group, better professionals and most importantly – better people.

Godspeed, Debra.

John Godec
Wendy Lowe
Doug Sarno

A scholarship in Debra’s honor is under development. We’ll have more details soon.