Atlanta chief sustainability officer working to fill departmental vacancies

The city of Atlanta is creating an executive Office of Sustainability and Resilience to revitalize Atlanta’s environmental agenda.

During the Atlanta City Council’s Finance/Executive committee on Wednesday, City Councilman Howard Shook said half of the city’s 12 sustainability positions are vacant.

Chief sustainability officer Chandra Farley said she’s speaking with Atlanta’s chief financial officer to fill those roles, which includes a clean energy director, senior recycling manager and project manager.

City Councilmember Liliana Bakhtiari asked Farley to use the new office to push for new building requirements to reduce energy burdens.

Bakhtiari said Atlanta is currently experiencing rapidly worsening air quality and high energy costs. Additionally, Bakhtiari shared plans to work with Farley on the city’s heat vulnerability assessment and citywide stormwater assessment.

After that discussion, the committee unanimously moved the ordinance to the full council for approval at their Dec. 5 meeting.

“I’ve very excited about this,” Bakhtiari said.

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Atlanta’s sustainability division was created in 2009 under then-Mayor Shirley Franklin. Her successor, Kasim Reed, grew the office to 20 staffers, launched an urban farming program, and audited buildings to slash water and power consumption.

But the city’s sustainability initiatives took a blow after Reed left office.

Reed’s successor, Keisha Lance Bottoms, merged sustainability into the Mayor’s Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. According to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in September, several former city employees said they left the division because they felt like the administration wasn’t prioritizing sustainability.

In September, Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens told the AJC his administration is committed to sustainability. He hired Farley in August. Dickens said her cabinet-level position has influence across all departments.

Credit: City of Atlanta

Credit: City of Atlanta

“The Office of Sustainability and Resilience can set policy (and) provide targets, but all of that work is operationalized through the departments,” Farley said. “Our interdepartmental coordination and partnerships will be key.”

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