The staff members of Des Moines Area MPO bring a diverse range of experience and expertise to the region. To request a presentation by an MPO staff member, click here.
R. Todd Ashby, AICP | Executive Director
Todd Ashby brings two decades of transportation planning, design, and programming experience to the Greater Des Moines region. His specialties include road design, general aviation master planning, transit planning, bike/ped trails, multimodal studies, planning and programming, and environmental documentation. He understands project management and the importance of bringing diverse interests to the table. Under his guidance, the MPO has strengthened its community partnerships and has worked to provide more support to communities. He earned a bachelor’s degree in urban planning from Iowa State University and a master’s of public administration from the University of Missouri-Columbia.
Tracey Deckard | Office Manager
Tracey Deckard provides the overall administrative management and front office support necessary to keep the organization running smoothly. With an extensive legal background and broad experience in both legal and administrative functions, Tracey oversees the facilities, equipment, and general day-to-day operations that enable the MPO to function effectively and efficiently. Tracey attended both Des Moines Area Community College and Northeast Missouri State University and has a paralegal degree.
Dylan Mullenix, AICP | Assistant Director
Dylan Mullenix has more than 15 years experience in local government, specializing in transportation planning, regional planning, sustainability planning and land-use planning. As the MPO’s assistant director, he oversees the activities of the planning staff. He leads the team in developing the long-range transportation plan, in developing the annual work program and budget, and in striving to develop new projects. Dylan earned a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and geography as well as a master’s degree in urban and regional planning from the University of Iowa.
Zach Young, AICP, MRTPI, CNU-A | Planning Manager
Zach Young has more than 10 years of experience in planning, with focus in the areas of land use, urban planning, environmental planning and transit-oriented development. He is knowledgeable in the areas of form-based codes, street design standards, and taxation and economic development. At the MPO, he manages the Long-Range Transportation Planning process and the Surface Transportation Block Grant Program. He earned a bachelor’s degree in city planning from Missouri State University and a master’s degree in city planning and regeneration from the University of Glasgow, Scotland. Zach is a Chartered Member of the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI). He is also certified in the areas of new urbanism and form-based code.
Gunnar Olson | Communications and Strategy Manager
Gunnar Olson has built on his background as an experienced journalist to earn a reputation as an engaging, trusted and articulate spokesperson and leader for causes important to Greater Des Moines. In his role at the MPO, he strives to make the MPO, its expert staff and valuable research more accessible to the media, community leaders and other organizations — and ultimately elevate community conversations about the region’s future. Additionally he leads special initiatives for the organization such as the establishment of an Economic Development District for the Mid-Iowa region. Prior to joining the MPO, he was the public affairs manager for the Des Moines Area Regional Transit Authority (DART) and a staff writer with The Des Moines Register.
Andrew Collings, AICP | Principal Planner
Andrew Collings is the primary staff person for the Central Iowa Regional Transportation Planning Alliance (CIRTPA). He also manages the MPO’s Transportation Improvement Program (TIP). Before joining the MPO, he worked at the Southern Iowa Council of Governments, where he wrote grants applications for and provided technical assistance to member communities. He administered grants primarily through the State’s Community Development Block Program, managed the organization’s GIS, and developed comprehensive plans and hazard mitigation plans. He earned a master’s degree in urban and regional planning and a bachelor’s degree in geography, both from the University of Iowa.
Zhi Chen | Associate Planner
Zhi Chen is interested in smart cities and in leveraging technologies to improve the connection between transportation planning and land-use planning, specifically with regards to spatial justice, public health, and the environment. At the Des Moines Area MPO, he works on the Iowa Data Bike project, data collection and analyses, GIS programs, travel demand modeling, performance measures and reports, and land-use scenario planning models. He earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science and history from Grinnell College and a master’s degree in urban and regional planning from the University of Iowa.
Allison van Pelt | Senior Planner
Allison has more than 10 years of experience working toward sustainable development, domestically and abroad, with an emphasis on poverty reduction, resource conservation, and climate action. At the MPO, she is the primary staff person for environmental planning, mobility, and equity work. She staffs the MPO’s Environment Roundtable, Watershed Management Authorities, Transportation Advisory Group (TAG), and was the lead author of the Polk County Multi-Jurisdictional Hazard Mitigation Plan and the Passenger Transportation Plan. Allison earned a bachelor’s degree in global resource systems and natural resource ecology and management, as well as a master’s degree in community and regional planning from Iowa State University.
Aspen Pflanz | Planner
Aspen Pflanz shepherds the MPO’s active transportation planning initiatives, staffs the Central Iowa Bicycle-Pedestrian Roundtable, and assists in managing the region’s Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) and Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP). Prior to joining the MPO, she worked as a transportation planner at the Iowa DOT, assisting in utility coordination and accommodation, GIS programming, and long-range planning for the Right of Way Bureau. She earned her Master of Community and Regional Planning, Preservation and Cultural Heritage graduate certificate, and bachelor’s degree in history and political science from Iowa State University.
Andre LaFontant | Intern
Andre LaFontant is interested in the intersection of sustainable landscapes and equitable access to such environments for historically marginalized communities. He is a graduate research assistant for the NSF-funded project Rural Shrink Smart, which has the goal of developing tools to help all small and shrinking communities actively plan for shrinkage before population loss affects quality of life. Andre earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Williams College and is currently pursuing a dual master’s degree in Landscape Architecture and Community and Regional Planning from Iowa State University.