Alumni News

October 25, 2017 at 12:51 pm

Notable Alumni | John Maximuk Puts Planning to Work for Decatur, Ga.

Graphic for College of Arts & Sciences Notable Alumni Award

Editor’s Note: The College of Arts & Sciences launches the Notable Alumni Awards, honoring 37 Notable Alumni in 2017 for broad accomplishments in their careers, a commitment to community service, and valuable contributions to Ohio University, the College of Arts & Sciences, and its students.

From left, Dean Robert Frank, John Maximuk, and President M. Duane Nellis at the 2017 Notable Alumni awards dinner.

From left, Dean Robert Frank, John Maximuk, and President M. Duane Nellis at the 2017 Notable Alumni awards dinner.


John Maximuk ’92 Geography

Ohio University alum John Maximuk is a city planner with 23 years of experience in the Atlanta, Boston, and Washington, D.C., metro areas working in local government, regional planning, and advocacy. In every setting, Maximuk has been a champion for the role of design in planning and for best practices in local government.

He earned a B.S. in Geography from the College of Arts & Sciences at OHIO in 1992 and a Master’s Degree in Regional Planning at the University of Massachusetts in 1994.

John Maximuk

Maximuk is a native of Parma, Ohio. After graduating from Brecksville-Broadview Heights High School in 1988, he left for Athens and became a Geography major at Ohio University.

John and his wife, Lily, have been married for 19 years and have a daughter and a son.

Since 2003, he has been living in Atlanta’s Candler Park neighborhood near Little Five Points.

“Geographers would take note,” Maximuk says, “that this is the key site of the Civil War’s battle of Atlanta. It is also Atlanta’s second suburb dating to the 1910s. Of interest to good geographers everywhere, Candler Park sits next to the subcontinental divide separating the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico watersheds!”

Maximuk (L) with Hubert Wilhelm at GeoFest, 1992

Maximuk (L) with Hubert Wilhelm at GeoFest, 1992

Currently, Maximuk manages plan review and development operations for the City of Decatur, GA. In 2013, he was named the first director of Decatur’s Design, Environment & Construction Division.

Prior to joining the City of Decatur, Maximuk served as deputy director of the Livable Communities Coalition of Metro Atlanta, where he worked to promote smart, sustainable development for metro Atlanta. Prior work includes planning for Sycamore Consulting; Fulton County, GA; Braintree, MA; and the Northern Virginia Regional Council.

Throughout his career, Maximuk has been active in public speaking and facilitation. He has appeared as a speaker at five national conferences of the American Planning Association and a U.S. Congressional Committee and as guest lecturer at Emory University, George Mason University, Georgia Tech, and Spellman College.

His articles have appeared in Planning Magazine, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Patriot Ledger newspaper, and the Braintree Forum newspaper.

Headshot of man with green and white facepaint

Maximuk showing Bobcat pride

In Decatur, Maximuk serves as a board member and secretary of the non-profit design champion Architecture and Design Center. Past organizational activities include board roles with the Congress for the New Urbanism Atlanta Chapter and Atlanta’s Citizens for Progressive Transit.

Most of his organizational efforts were based in the American Planning Association. From 2012 to 2014, he served as vice chair of the American Planning Association’s Divisions Council, an 8,000-member component of the national organization. From 2006 to 2008, he served as the national chair of the American Planning Association’s Urban Design and Preservation Division. Prior activity also involved managing a mentoring program for the Division. Since 1996, he has been a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners—an accredited certification for planners known as AICP.

Maximuk enjoys hiking in the nearby North Georgia Mountains, travel, playing trumpet, coaching softball, cities of every kind—especially his beloved Boston, his hometown of Cleveland, Washington, D.C., and his adopted home towns of Atlanta and New Orleans—and lastly a life-long passion for baseball, including a hard-luck adherence to the Cleveland Indians.

“I was honored to be recognized as one of the first Notable Alumni,” he said. “Though I had been back to campus several times since graduating, this trip was different because it took me back to the very start of my career and to the core of my professional interests. What happened surprised me. By looking back for a moment, I came away inspired and renewed for the work that I do.

“From the start, the College of Arts & Sciences and the Geography Department gave me the warmest welcome and heartfelt wishes on this award. The experience helped me remember my favorite professors, mentors, and the lasting value of my education at Ohio University,” he said.

“Hearing the accomplishments of fellow alumni was humbling and inspiring. I came away renewed for the next steps in my work and personal journey. For the first time in quite a while, I remembered how lucky I was to find Ohio University.”

Connections to Ohio University

  • Work Study Program 1988-1989, 1989-1990: Department of Philosophy
  • PACE, 1990-1991, 1991-1992: Department of Geography
  • University Professor Program, 1989
  • Study Abroad Program 1990:  Merida, Mexico
  • Upward Bound Program 1991
  • Student Government, East Green Council, 1988-1989
  • Intramural Sports, 1988-1992
OHIO alumni Doug Sherwin (L) and John Maximuk

OHIO alumni Doug Sherwin (L) and John Maximuk

Favorite Bobcat Memories

“Choosing one favorite Bobcat memory is impossible!” he says. Some of the best include:

  • The exact moment in the Ellis Hall language lab when I heard about the study abroad in Mexico
  • The lasting impact of my favorite classes, including the Philosophy of Meaning seminar with Dr. Don Borchert; Cultural Geography with Dr. Hubert Wilhelm; Urban Sociology with Dr. Wagner, and others
  • Running with my friends at 11 p.m. after studying and running around Athens, especially up Cable Lane
  • Swimming in Dow Lake…in November
  • Spending  the summer of 1991 on campus with the Upward Bound Program
  • Hearing the Marching 110 rumble through East Green on the first weekend on campus and sitting on the 50-yard line at Peden Stadium to hear a post-game show
  • Experiences and friendships from working in PACE/Work Study in Geography and Philosophy

Ohio University Mentors

Dr. Nancy Bain, Department of Geography: “Dr. Bain took an interest in me, encouraged me to do better work, and convinced me to do work that would expand my comfort zone and challenge me academically. She, like so many others in the Geography Department and Philosophy Department, showed me how much larger the world was.”

Alice Donohoe, Department of Philosophy: “Alice Donohoe started out as my work study supervisor and became a friend. Alice set the tone for my college career—instilling several qualities, including a strong work ethic, the importance of being thorough, and a sense of stability. She and her husband, Bob, were special to me because they gave me a rare personal insight on what it was like to be long-time residents of their beloved Athens.

OHIO alums (L to R): Brent Neal, John Maximuk, and Bryan Mosher

OHIO alums (L to R): Brent Neal, John Maximuk, and Bryan Mosher

“There were many others who made positive impacts on me from professors (who opened their doors to talk beyond classrooms), to graduate students (who were living examples of what graduate school would be like) to pastors, and to my close friends (who unwittingly encouraged me to do better),” says Maximuk.

“The lesson here is that it is essential to jump outside yourself as a college student. If a student decides to get involved with people—beyond the core responsibilities of being a student—it makes an exponential difference and can be academically and personally enriching.”

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