City hires first sustainability coordinator
Julie Rosenbach beat out a field of 135 applicants from 28 states and five countries to land the job, which will put her in charge of city efforts to reduce energy consumption and implement so-called “green” technologies. Her first day in city hall will be March 9.
For the past eight years, Rosenbach has been manager of sustainability initiatives at Bates College in Lewiston.
During her time at Bates, Rosenbach developed the college’s first five-year sustainability and climate action plan. She also led campus renewable energy initiatives, which included installation of solar, thermal, biodiesel and biomass energy units. Additionally, she developed a green certification program for faculty and students, managed the students’ EcoRep program, lectured in the school’s environmental studies program and increased campus recycling from 23 to 40 percent.
“Julie possesses the right skills, knowledge and work ethic that we need here in South Portland,” said City Manager Jim Gailey. “The college/university systems are far ahead of most in the world of implementing sustainability practices. Having an opportunity to bring on such a talent as Julie will only strengthen the goals of the city council and staff in becoming a leader in sustainable practices in the state of Maine.”
“I’m excited to join an amazing team of people dedicated to making South Portland a great city,” Rosenbach said. “I look forward to building on notable accomplishments and helping our community grow more sustainable and resilient.”
The city council created the new sustainability coordinator position in November, using a $127,194 windfall delivered by ecomaine. That month, the waste-to-energy facility distributed $1 million derived from better-than-expected revenues to its 20 owner municipalities.
From its ecomaine payout, the council agreed to set aside $28,038 to pay the city’s new climate czar from January to the end of the current fiscal year, June 30. Adding in the cost of health insurance and retirement benefits, along with state and federal withholding, brought the total cost of the position to nearly $42,000, a number that will double when funded for a full year as part of the city’s 2016 budget.
“A good sustainability person will more than make up their salary in grants brought into the city and on (energy) savings, and other things we haven’t thought of yet,” said Mayor Linda Cohen, when voting to create the position.
After spending $23,000 on three-year leases for two Nissan Leaf electric vehicles, $300 to buy 50 recycling containers for use at various city buildings and $3,000 on a Level II electric charging station for the planning and development office on Sawyer Street, the city council placed the balance of its ecomaine money ($58,894) in a “sustainability reserve,” giving Rosenbach a bank to work with to implement various green projects.
With no one on currently on staff in South Portland trained to oversee green initiatives, or with the spare time to take on extra duties, Gailey had first hoped to create the sustainability coordinator position more than a year ago. It ended up being one of the last things cut from the current city budget to meet a city council directive on the bottom line.
However, the position was formalized when included as a top recommendation in the Climate Action Plan adopted by the council this past fall.
Literally years in the making, the Climate Action Plan is the culmination of a 2010 “sustainability resolve,” adopted by the council to demonstrate its commitment to eventually incorporate green practices into all city operations. That vote was an outgrowth of a 2007 decision to sign on to the U.S. Conference of Mayors Climate Protection Agreement.
That agreement called on participating communities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent before 2017. In South Portland’s case, that translated to a goal of 1,700 metric tons of CO2e (carbon dioxide-equivalent gasses) based on the 10,100 metric tons of CO2e the city was producing at the time.
In addition to creating the sustainability coordinator position, key recommendations in the city’s new climate action plan include creation of a solar farm atop the old city landfill off Highland Avenue and installation of more low-energy LED streetlights, to match the ones installed two years ago in Knightville, as well as converting the city’s entire fleet on non-emergency vehicles to electric power.
The solar farm idea has hit a snag more recently, however, as construction estimates have topped $2 million.
Prior to her time at Bates, Rosenbach worked for the Environmental Protection Agency in Washington, D.C., as a liaison between the agency and numerous national task forces created to spearhead waste reduction initiatives and universal waste policies.
Over the years Rosenbach has presented at numerous conferences around the country on various sustainability topics. She has authored two publications: “Greening Electronics Product Design: A Summary of Initiatives and Influences” (2002), and a “Guidance Document on the Environmentally Sound Management of Used and End-of- Life Mobile Phones” (2008).
Rosenbach graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a degree in Russian history and earned a master’s degree in international environmental policy from the Monterey Institute of International Studies in Monterey, California. She also has been a senior fellow in the Environmental Leadership Program, an alumna of the Institute of Civic Leadership, a member of the steering committee of the Northeast Campus Sustainability Consortium and member/co-organizer of the Green Campus Consortium of Maine.
Rosenbach lives in the Willard Beach area with her partner and two children.