Bill Schmickle is the leading exponent of historic district politics. His groundbreaking work on local districts is based on practical experience and a career in teaching politics as preparation for practical action. His goal is to inspire the confidence and skills needed to accomplish good things for local communities through historic districting.
He has spoken at conferences of the National Trust and the National Alliance of Preservation Commissions, at statewide meetings, and before local preservation groups around the country. He has also conducted or participated in Certified Local Government
and other commission-training workshops.
Bill provides keys to success for local activists and professionals. His writings, public talks, workshops and consulting services are easily accessible and notable for his humorous and conversational style. His approach is to demystify the political processes behind local historic district designation campaigns and the workings of established districts as they age.
Having co-led a hard-fought designation campaign in North Carolina, he later chaired the Annapolis, Maryland, Historic Preservation Commission. His first two books were listed in an article for the National Trust as among the most essential books in preservation. They were combined, revised and expanded in 2018 as The Historic District Action Guide: From Designation Campaigns to Keeping Districts Vital from Rowman and Littlefield, Publishers.
Think. What is a historic district’s most important preservation resource? Community support for district regulations. How do you get and sustain it? Through inspired community leadership.
Bill Schmickle is an engaging communicator who instills confidence and courage among his listeners to step up and lead. With original insights and images, he awakens audiences to their potential for action with his practical, can-do visions of accomplishment.
Why is this important? A historic district is often a community’s signature civic achievement. Helping volunteers and professionals self-identify their capacity for leadership is the most important thing you can pursue in preservation forums.
Your campaign can die on its first day, and you won’t know it until it is too late, weeks, months, or longer down the line. On the surface everything is going well with maps and studies and preliminary approvals. You stand confidently upon the merits of your plan. But beneath the trapdoor at your feet, the descent into politics will be very steep.
Designation campaigns are political contests over property rights and regulations, not historic preservation. You want to win, and so do your opponents. Question is: Do you know how to think politically, strategize, and act for political success in your community and down at City Hall?
Bill Schmickle can show you how to win, even if you are new to local politics. His original insights and precepts for successful action lay bare your opponents’ strengths and weaknesses. He teaches you the revealing logic behind everything your opponents will do, step by step, to defeat you.
Bill’s consulting services and workshops read the lay of your political landscape and provide assistance for strategizing your campaign from its start in the community to official designation hearings.
Why should you use them? Because the worse thing in politics is to be right and to lose.
Those who lead a local district have two stewardship trusts. One is for sheltering historic resources in the built or open environment. The other is for sustaining the political resources in the community and at City Hall that won district designation.
As a district ages, failure to maintain strong ties to the community is ruinous. It amounts to the political demolition of the district by neglect.
Bill Schmickle has created a narrative arc that explains the problem and points the way to addressing it successfully through specific policy prescriptions.
Why should this interest you? Because the second worst thing in politics is to win a historic district designation and then fritter away that victory by neglecting the continuing importance of the politics that created them.
Bill Schmickle works with historic preservation commissions (HPCs) to assist them in delivering the sort of good government on which the health of local preservation depends. This means working for preservation, while making preservation work for local communities.
In half-day or day-long workshops, Bill focuses on the kind of public service that creates a culture of compliance among district beneficiaries. He helps local HPCs avoid the errors that undermine local support for district operations in the community and among elected officials.
Why do you need his perspectives? Because many good folks who work with districts never led a designation campaign. Commission training should look beyond “best practices” inside HPCs to understanding the broader promised vision of public service on which historic districts rest.