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Lucia Athens named Austin’s first Chief Sustainability Officer

Monday, June 21, 2010 by Austin Monitor

City Manager Marc Ott has selected Lucia Athens of Seattle to be its first Chief Sustainability Officer.


Athens is a former Austinite who holds a master’s degree in Sustainable Design from the University of Texas. Locally, she’s served as a Water Efficiency Program Assistant for the city, a Water Efficiency Program Manager for the Lower Colorado River Authority, and helped to write Austin’s “Green Builder Guide.” She also helped found the Sustainable Building Coalition of Austin, a group which has since morphed into Design~Build~Live.


She’s also spent time as the Sustainability Strategic Advisor with the Seattle Office of Sustainability & Environment, a role in which she “led the city’s green building and sustainable operations initiatives,” according to her resume. She currently serves as a Senior Sustainable Futures Strategist for the private firm Collins Woerman Architecture and Planning.


Athens was among four applicants for the job that met with the public in early June. At that time she said she had a background in sustainability that stretched back to her graduate work at the University of Texas. There, she says, she “basically made up this program called ‘Sustainable design.’ ”


“It was an independent study program in the architecture school,” she said. “I think people didn’t quite know what I was doing at the time…whether through good fortune or just because the time was right, sustainability (has) really come into its own since then.”


To win the job, Athens beat out current Kansas City Chief Environmental Officer Dennis Murphey, former Austin insider Matt Watson, and the director of environmental affairs for Xanterra Parks and Resorts at Yellowstone National Park, Beth Pratt.


“This position will play a crucial role in our continued stewardship of environmental resources,” City Manager Marc Ott said.  “Lucia brings experience in both the public and private sectors that will serve the City well in understanding community desires and economic realities.


“Having worked in Austin, she understands that this is a special place,” Ott said. “We welcome her back home.”


In addition to a Master of Science degree in Architectural Studies from the University of Texas, she also has Bachelor of Science in Landscape Architecture from Texas A&M.


The Chief Sustainability Officer will develop, coordinate and administer various sustainability and conservation programs both within the City of Austin organization and for the Austin community. She will be expected to coordinate interdepartmental efforts surrounding green purchasing, energy, water and resource conservation, solid waste recycling, green building, green house gas reduction, renewable resources, government funding, and environmental reporting metrics.

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