Bill Roper, Founder & President

Rope croppedBill served the Orton Family Foundation for 14 years, from 1998 – 2012. For his first eight years, Bill was the Foundation’s Director of Programs. During this time, Bill helped design and implement the Foundation’s Community Mapping Program, which brought GIS into the classroom and took students and teachers out into the field to work with “real people” on issues of importance to their local communities. Bill forged partnerships with ESRI and National Geographic as the program spread to 5 states and oversaw the production of a how-to manual entitled Making Community Connections. Bill also led the growth of the Foundation’s Community Video program to reach well beyond the Foundation’s two regions and completed a partnership with the American Planning Association resulting in the how-to publication, Lights, Camera, Community Video. Bill was deeply involved in the design and delivery of all the educational and technical support for the Foundation’s groundbreaking, scenario planning software, CommunityViz®.

From 2006-2012, Bill led the Foundation as its President and CEO and by his departure was its longest serving President and CEO. During this time Bill spearheaded the creation of the Foundation’s $10M Heart & Soul Community Planning Initiative, which includes the use of storytelling, art, informal networks and lots of high touch tools to engage citizens and enable them to play a fundamental role in steering change in their communities. A unique feature of the approach is its commitment to gaining firsthand experience working with residents and leaders in a limited number of small cities and towns. Bill has also overseen the creation of CommunityMatters®, a conference and online networking alliance bringing diverse interests together to initiate collective impact in community planning and development and was a founding member of the Intermountain West Funders Network. Other recent accomplishments under Bill’s leadership include publication of respected whitepapers, including Re-Weaving Community, Creating the Future and, most recently, Stewarding the Future of Our Communities, and the book The Planners Guide to CommunityViz.

Prior to working with the Foundation, Bill practiced law for fourteen years in a private firm in Middlebury, Vermont and became a prominent land use attorney focusing on creative and thoughtful local community planning, as well as on sound economic and environmental development in the private market.

Bill also gained international experience when he lived with his wife and two daughters on the west coast of Ireland from 1997-1998 and spearheaded changes to Ireland’s land use practices and regulations, helped form Ireland’s first land trust and worked on several local projects.

He has written articles for the Boston College Environmental Affairs Law Review and the Vermont Law Review and has authored a chapter on the Foundation’s groundbreaking planning software for the edited volume, Conservation in the Internet Age (Island Press, 2002).

Bill has served on the Boards of the Vermont Natural Resources Council, Vermont Forum on Smart Growth, Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, Middlebury Area Land Trust, and his local town’s planning commission.