Debra Duerr, our managing partner, our colleague, and our cherished friend, passed away in April 2021 after a sudden and brief illness. A scholarship in Debra’s honor is under development. We’ll have more details soon


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

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

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

She was a charter member of the International Association for Public Participation (IAP2), serving on the US Board of Directors, as a founder of the Grand Canyon Chapter, and a member of the Professional Certification Task Force. Debra’s presence and contributions to this profession will be sorely missed.

Every group needs a quiet, wise voice, especially those with strong opinions and healthy personalities. Debra was that voice for us; always listening, hearing everything, missing nothing, and finding the exact 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, and surrogate grandmother. She had the greatest sense of humor, most infectious laugh and smile and was the best friend any of us could ever have wished for.

Debra’s passing leaves a hole in 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