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ACC Hires Environmental Coordinator

At long last, Athens-Clarke County has an environmental coordinator again.

Andrew Saunders, formerly the ACC community forester, took over the job today. Hopefully, he’ll last longer than the last guy.

Dick Field, who had held the position since former Mayor Heidi Davison created it in 2002, retired in 2010. ACC hired a planner from Washington state named Eric Blair in early 2011, but he quit a few months later for personal reasons. The post has been vacant ever since. Mayor Nancy Denson tried to eliminate it last year, but in a compromise with commissioners, she funded the position for the second half of fiscal 2013.

Here’s the news release from ACC:

The Athens-Clarke County Unified Government Central Services Department has named Andrew Saunders as the new Environmental Coordinator. He began his new position on Monday, March 4, 2013.

Saunders has a Bachelor of Science in wildlife ecology and management and a Master of Forest Resources from the University of Georgia. He spent the last 5½ years as the Athens-Clarke County Community Forestry Coordinator and 3 years prior to that serving as an Athens-Clarke County Community Tree Program intern.

During his time with Athens-Clarke County, Andrew has been responsible for the management of public trees in and around parks, facilities, and along the rights-of-way. He has provided approximately 2,500 resource management consultations to local citizens and over 1,500 consultations on county projects. He has worked closely with the Community Tree Council, the University of Georgia, the Georgia Urban Forest Council, and other community groups to craft and implement natural resource policy. As an intern, he pioneered a Global Positioning System (GPS)-based tree inventory system that has since been adopted by the U.S. Forest Service, the Georgia Forestry Commission, and the University of Georgia.

The Environmental Coordinator’s work plan includes supporting Unified Government departments on environmentally-related projects and programs; interacting with community and university groups and agencies on environmental topics; monitoring planning and zoning requests for potential environmental issues; serving as the LEED policy coordinator on Unified Government construction and renovation projects; leading the development of a Sustainability Plan; providing interdepartmental coordination of the Green Space Program; and working on electric vehicle readiness initiatives.

Flagpole‘s John Huie spoke with ACC Manager Alan Reddish in December about the environmental coordinator’s role.

“I don’t know what you mean by environmental ombudsman,” Reddish said. “I don’t see it as a watchdog. I see it as a way to assist this government in being sensitive to environmental issues and responding appropriately and trying to keep us out on the cutting edge of making decisions that would be environmentally sound. It’s never been a watchdog; I wouldn’t see it as that, no.”

So his role is to work with other departments?  “That’s the way it has functioned in the past, and would continue to function in the future,” Reddish said.