A Publication of WTVP

40 Leaders Under Forty

Reema Abi-Akar, Age 30

Senior Planner, Tri-County Regional Planning Commission (TCRPC)

40 Under 40 headshots.

At TCRPC, Reema Abi-Akar works on transportation and environmental issues, including spearheading transit projects, overseeing the region’s hazard mitigation plan update, administrating numerous grant programs, and serving as the Region 5 human service transportation plan coordinator. Additionally, she is TCRPC’s communications guru, acting as editor of Tri-County’s monthly newsletter.

“Reema is ambitious when it comes to meeting her professional goals. She is always willing to volunteer to present on a project at a conference, write an article, or attend a meeting,” said her nominator. “Reema is a team player who is always ready to assist … and shares credit for accomplishments. She isn’t afraid of taking on challenges and learning by doing. Reema works on federally funded projects with steep learning curves, administrative burdens, and red tape to jump through.”

Abi-Akar really earned the respect of her colleagues following the death of a co-worker in an accident, learning his job and stepping up to assume some of his duties. It was a “trial by fire,” said her nominator. “We both survived the experience and became even better planners.”

Outside work, Abi-Akar represents TCRPC on the American Planning Association, Illinois Chapter. She also participates on the Peoria Prowlers roller derby team.

Abi-Akar participates in the Peoria Prowlers roller derby competition.
Abi-Akar participates in the Peoria Prowlers roller derby competition. Photo by Steve Jurkovic

Advice for 20-year-old self: “Failure can be a blessing in disguise.”

Unknown to colleagues: “When I was young, I curated a collection of over 100 beanie babies of all types. They each have names and personalities, and I kept track … on an Excel spreadsheet. Although they are not as valuable as people thought they would be … they still have a special place in my heart (and in my parents’ basement).”

Best advice ever: “I have a quote on a sticky note in my office that reads, ‘You’re never too important to be nice to people.’”

Favorite book: Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America … written by Barbara Ehrenreich. This book uses personal experiences from the author to show poverty in the United States … If you do not live in challenging conditions day to day, it is easy to forget those who do.”

Inspirations: “My parents, Hind and Ramez Abi-Akar. They moved my sister and me here when we were young, and they have served as my support system since.”