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A publication of the American Planning Association, California Chapter, Northern Section

Making great communities happen

Knox inspires and leads through decades of service

By Florentina Craciun, AICP, Northern Section Immediate Past Director, January 13, 2023

After 17 years as Northern News editor, Naphtali Knox retired the proverbial pen a few months ago, handing the cursor to our new editor, Andrew Trippel.

Naphtali is a Planner’s Planner. He amassed over 52 years of professional planning experience working in multiple states and was the principal and owner of Naphtali H. Knox and Associates for 27 years before retiring in 2009. He also donated significant time to the planning community as editor of Northern News from 2005-2022. You can read more about his career in this May 2022 Northern News interview.

I’ve known Naphtali since my first day on the Board in May 2012. During the past 10 years, I’ve had the pleasure of learning from him – from how to navigate change, to when to speak up, and when to listen, to the importance of thoughtful contribution. I was always in awe of Naphtali’s ability to change and adapt, while always being present.

Over the past two years, I had the opportunity to work closer with Naphtali as Section Director. I will always appreciate his straightforward way of communication, his ability to ask for help, and most importantly, his drive to always move things forward. Naphtali was the consummate editor. I can’t think of a better way to pay tribute to THE Naphtali Knox and his work with Northern News than through the mostly unedited words of his Northern Section peers!

Richard Davis, AICP Candidate – Northern News Associate Editor

I can say from nearly three years of experience that putting the newsletter together takes an eyewatering amount of time and care. Other hands have helped, but his role as editor is not an honorary title. Naphtali’s dedication is present in every issue under his stewardship of the little ode to our profession we call Northern News.

Over the years leading up to Naphtali’s retirement from the newsletter, I documented many of our procedures to ease onboarding new editors. He wrote many emails to me and other associate editors describing exactly how to edit, assemble, and release the newsletter, so our handbook preserves these instructions. We also have examples of his keen eye for refining a sentence. Although Naphtali is fully retired, we continue to benefit from his patient guidance. Our new editorial team is proud to uphold the high standards our readers deserve.

Libby Tyler, FAICP – Director-Elect

Naphtali has been simply the best planning guru/editor extraordinaire I’ve ever known. I am so thankful to have been able to work with him over the past four years on the Board and to benefit from his steady wisdom and kind attention and mentorship.

It was always a pleasure to work with him on the articles I was able to write for the Newsletter — and now I wish I had done more!

Many years ago, when I was working in Illinois, I discovered and began to subscribe to the Northern News, and I found it to be the best planning newsletter around and a wonderful window into the progressive state of planning in California. It was easier to digest and more relatable than the barrage of other planning-related publications and it gave me great inspiration for my Illinois practice and my future plans to return to California.

I remember one time I presented at a National Conference and a gentleman in the audience made a generous observation and paid me a very kind compliment. It was terrifically uplifting, especially since conference presentations can be so nerve-wracking. Then, I put two and two together and realized this gentleman was none other than the renowned editor of Northern News – Naphtali Knox! My “love affair” with Naphtali continued when I returned to the Bay Area in 2017 (after 28 years in central Illinois), and there was Naphtali in the flesh – offering up solid leadership and service in a way that never failed to inspire and impress his fellow Board members.

As we planners begin to mature in the field, we should strive to follow Naphtali’s example by continuing to provide service and inspiration to our fellow planners using whatever gifts we may have developed. I will miss working with Naphtali on the Board of the Northern Section, but I don’t doubt that he will have future brilliant schemes and contributions in store that will continue to enrich our lives as planners.

Sharon Grewal, AICP – Past Director (2017-2018)

Theodore Roosevelt said ‘‘Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.’’ I believe Naphtali has received this ‘‘best prize’’ throughout his life. The Northern News has been a treasured program for the Northern Section for decades thanks to Naphtali’s vision and hard work. His tireless commitment throughout the years has provided a forum of communication to our members that have raised awareness of the importance of planning and has fostered a sense of community. It was an absolute honor to serve as Section Director during the digital transformation of the Northern News and work with Naphtali throughout the years. Naphtali’s passion, innovation, and tireless pursuit to publish valuable content for readers is work worth doing.

Michael Cass – Director

Naphtali Knox is a true treasure of the Northern Section, having spent 17+ years editing Northern News, one of the premier publications for planners! Naphtali meticulously and expertly hand-crafted 10 issues of Northern News each year, always ensuring each article and each image were perfect. For each issue, he carefully monitored the analytics about readership, regularly sharing the statistics and comparing them to previous issues, showing his pride for his product and pride in his profession. But more than that, Naphtali served as a mentor and trusted advisor for dozens of associate editors and collaborators through the years and brought out the greatness in all those around him. Like all planners, we want to make our communities better than when we first arrived…Naphtali has done that and then some.

Naphtali’s hard work was also recently recognized by the APA California Chapter with a 2022 Section Activity Award for Northern News. I think we are all nodding our heads in appreciation and applauding this well-deserved award.

If you would like to share your own contribution, please email me at and I will forward on to Naphtali.

A Senior Environmental Planner with the Environmental Planning Division, San Francisco Planning Department, Craciun holds a master’s in Urban and Regional Planning from UCLA and a BA in history from UC Santa Barbara. She has served on the Board since 2012, first as membership Director, followed by East Bay RAC (regional activity coordinator, 2013-2014), Awards Co-director (2015-2020), and Director Elect for APA California-Northern in 2020, until leading the board as Director from 2021-2022.

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