The Virginia Association of Planning District Commissions (VAPDC) has awarded Benjamin (Ben) Ruppert of Hopewell with the 2020 Robert W. Baker Achievement Award. This award recognizes persons who have been involved in Planning District Commission (PDC) activities and who have contributed significantly to promoting regional planning and development, while impacting more than one PDC.

Ben serves as Chair of the Emergency Management Alliance of Central Virginia (the Alliance) Finance Committee while working as the Emergency Services Coordinator for the City of Hopewell’s Office of Emergency Management. In addition to coordinating emergency preparedness, planning and outreach for the City, Ben is an active member of the Alliance, which is a coalition of emergency managers and partners from the greater Richmond area, covering all or parts of five planning district commissions.

Ben was an active leader in forming a significant and unique partnership with the Community Foundation for a greater Richmond. In 2020, PlanRVA (Richmond Regional Planning District Commission), the Alliance, and the Community Foundation launched the Central Virginia COVID-19 Relief Fund. As with most regional projects, the Fund was intended to support a wide and diverse set of communities, covering 26 diverse localities. To date, the Fund has awarded $6.2 million of the $6.7 million raised to address pressing needs addressed by our local community nonprofit and governmental organizations in the wake of the COVID-19 health emergency. This disaster response fund is the first of its kind in the region, and the first to serve such a broad area, especially covering those rural or vulnerable areas significantly impacted by the virus.

“Ben led the development of this partnership between the Alliance and Community Foundation beginning in 2018. The Alliance executed a Fund Agreement then with intentions of supporting the community in the wake of a disaster. At the time, we had no idea such a fund could be so successful and make such a significant impact at a time our region needed it most,” stated Martha Heeter, Executive Director of PlanRVA. “Ben has been instrumental in considering the interests of all, as the guidelines were drafted and as significant shifts in the Fund operations and prioritization had to occur.”

The award was presented at a meeting last week of the Emergency Management Alliance of Central Virginia.

Planning District Commissions were enabled by state legislation in 1968 and most were established the following year. There are 21 PDCs and Regional Commissions in Virginia made up of elected officials and citizens appointed by local government. The purpose of the Planning District Commissions is to encourage and facilitate regional solutions to problems of area-wide significance. This is done by promoting the efficient development of the physical, social, and economic policies of all districts by assisting local governments to plan for the future. The PDCs of Virginia created the Virginia Association of Planning District Commissions to share best practices, and further regionalism across the Commonwealth. For information about VAPDC visit the website at

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