The IMPACT, a Sustainable CT podcast
Questions or comments about the IMPACT should be directed to the Sustainable CT communications manager, Jim Hunt, via email or by calling 860-259-4732. We feature interviews with Very Interesting & Helpful People, and the best content drawn from our workshops, webinars and Coffee Hours. Look for new episodes here, or wherever you get your podcasts, on or about the 15th of each month.
It was my great pleasure to have a conversation with Joshua Steele Kelly, Town Manager and CEO of the beautiful Town of Winchester, Connecticut. He’s held that post since April of 2021, and, prior to that, Josh served as the Town Administrator of Bolton, Connecticut and as Conservation Commissioner in Waterford. And Sustainable CT will be having its 2023 Awards Celebration in Winchester – in October – at the site of the American Mural Project, so it was timely and appropriate to talk about all things Winchester with their dynamic and engaging Town Manager.
We had an opportunity to sit down with Fionnuala Darby-Hudgens, director of data strategic planning with CT Data Collaborative. "Finn," as we affectionately know her, was joined by our own Lynn Stoddard to discuss some of the greatest challenges facing the non-profit community when it comes to data management.
It's Old Home Week at the IMPACT, as we've invited three alumni of the Sustainable CT fellowship program to join us to ask the "Where are they now?" question and find out how their participation in our fellowship program may - or may not - have impacted their career paths. But we also wanted to get their perspectives on some major issues of the day because they've all done very well since their respective fellowships with Sustainable CT, and their opinions are definitely worth hearing and sharing.
We have two – yes, two! – delightful guests – Inez Ortiz and Dorothy Piszczek. They’ve both just recently joined Sustainable CT as project assistants, and this was a great opportunity to get to know them a little better, and to discover what their aspirations are at Sustainable CT and in the wider world. We discussed carbon pricing, campus sustainability efforts, the generational differences of perspective when it comes to climate change, and a good deal more. Welcome to Sustainable CT, Inez and Dorothy!
I had a lively and informative conversation with Richard Johnson, the erstwhile and long-serving Town Manager of Glastonbury. Prior to his formal retirement in March, Richard worked in Glastonbury town government for 42 years – a remarkable achievement. His is a career that spans, not just decades, but enormous change – in technology, communications, environmental action, political upheavals and polarization, and, truthfully, how we view the world and our place in it. We were very lucky to have him with us to share his wisdom, his experience, and his perspective.
This month's show is a little late, but for good reason: we're bringing you a special crossover episode in conjunction with the Sustainable CT Coffee Hour, Earth Day Edition, featuring Eric Fine of the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication. Eric joined us to discuss the YPCCC’s research on climate change public opinion and messaging. Our special Earth Day Coffee Hour covered how you can most effectively communicate with your community members, local elected officials, and municipal staff about sustainability. Happy Earth Day, everyone!
I was joined by John Elsesser, the Town Manager of Coventry since 1988. Now, 1988 was a long time ago... that's 1988 BC (Before Cellphones)... but John is nothing if not up-to-date and innovative in his approach to municipal governance. In energy, waste management, housing, farm and open space preservation - he's by no means stuck in the past. John has guided Coventry through Bronze certification in 2018, and Silver in 2019 and 2022. He's left the town well-positioned to go for Gold, too, which is a very good thing, because he'll be retiring this summer. We didn't want to miss the opportunity to benefit from both his wealth of experience and his unique perspective.
Sam Gold, Executive Director of the Lower Connecticut River Valley Council of Governments, was kind enough to put up with my Covid voice (and brain) for a wide-ranging discussion about Connecticut's demographic challenges, housing, regional planning, energy and some trash talk, too. Sam's been a member of the American Institute of Certified Planning since 2006; he served as chair of the Connecticut Association of Councils of Governments for four years; he’s a member of the state Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations; and he’s a member of the Sustainable CT Board of Directors. We recorded our conversation via Zoom on February 8.
We begin our second season of The IMPACT with three fabulous guests. Monet Paredes and Lilly Adamo are both attending the University of Connecticut and they, along with a cohort of UConn students, attended the 27th United Nations Conference of Parties (or COP27) that took place in November of last year in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt. We were joined as well by Dr. Anji Seth, a professor of Climate, Weather, and Physical Geography at the University of Connecticut, who was one of the lead faculty directors on the trip. We recorded our conversation on January 10.
I had the opportunity to chat with Emily Basham, Senior Manager of Partnership Development at the Connecticut Green Bank. Emily manages the community campaigns for the Solar for All and the Solar Municipal Assistance programs supporting Connecticut’s towns and cities. She’s led the Green Bank’s participation in the SolSmart program, offering technical assistance to streamline local solar permitting processes in the state. Prior to joining the Green Bank, Emily’s work focused on member and voter engagement through non-profits such as the League of Conservation Voters and various political campaigns. We recorded this conversation, via Zoom, on November 29, 2022.
We recorded live at the 2022 Connecticut Power & Energy Society's Fall Conference for a panel discussion entitled “Read All About It: A Journalist’s View of Effective Energy Reporting.” Joining was a group of some of the most distinguished energy reporters in our region: Sam Mintz with RTO Insider, Jan Ellen Spiegel with the Connecticut Mirror, Ethan Howland of Utility Dive, and Sabrina Shankman of the Boston Globe. We discussed not only what it takes to report on some very complex topics, but also some of the major issues facing the Connecticut and New England energy scene.
I had a fabulous conversation with Catherine Diviney, Energy Specialist with the Town of West Hartford and doyen of all things sustainable in municipal government. Catherine was present at the creation of Sustainable CT – lending her guidance at the inception of our mission – and she’s been a steadfast supporter ever since. She’s someone to whom we often turn for comment, critique and an important hands-on perspective when it comes to affecting sustainability at the local level. The Town of West Hartford was Bronze certified in 2018 and gained Silver certification in 2021 with flying colors. This year, they’re in the running to be one of only a handful for Connecticut towns to receive our first-ever Climate Leader designation – that’s a pretty big deal. And it’s all due in large part to the tireless and committed work of Catherine Diviney.
We had the good fortune to have TWO of Connecticut’s best natural resources on the same Zoom call: our executive director, Lynn Stoddard AND Senator Christine Cohen, representing the 12th state Senate district and chair of the Environment Committee.
I had the chance to chat with our very own Mary Dickerson, certification program manager extraordinaire AND the manager of the Sustainable CT Fellowship Program. Mary's a veritable font of practical knowledge and experience, unmatched administrative prowess and truly a delight to work with. We covered a lot of ground in our conversation - certification, of course, but we also took a deep dive into the topic of affordable housing and all the work Sustainable CT Fellows have been doing to help Connecticut cities and towns grapple with the issue. And "What's an insult you've taken as a compliment?" - we went there, too. Enjoy.
It’s all about riparian zones – from the Latin word for river: RIPA or RIPARIUS (Et tu, Riparius?). But a riparian zone, at least to those of us west of the Rubicon, is actually the area on the sides of the river – a buffer that, if preserved and managed properly, goes a long way toward keeping the river clean and keeping whatever the river, or stream, flows into clean as well. Critical stuff, really. So critical, in fact, that that the Connecticut legislature passed Public Act 21-19 creating new environmental responsibility and authority for local governments to protect and restore riparian zones. Under the new statute, all “navigable waterways” flowing into Long Island Sound now need to be protected – which affects almost all the municipalities in the state. We were joined by some heavy-hitters on this topic: Charles Vidich, senior project manager in charge of the Regional Plan of Conservation & Development at the Western Council of Governments; Sam Gold, executive director of the Lower Connecticut River Valley Council of Governments; and Francis Pickering, executive director of Western COG. Together they facilitated a conversation on next steps toward more sustainable riparian protection and development.
Today we’re chatting with a friend, a colleague, and an all-around very interesting human being, Joseph Dickerson, the Sustainable CT community partnership manager, and manager of the Community Match Fund. Joseph draws on his past experience with city, state, and federal government programs, community development, and entrepreneurship to help guide leaders and community teams as they innovate and grow sustainability projects across Connecticut.
We were grateful to be joined by Dr. Jonathan Foley, director of Project Drawdown, for Earth Day in April. Jonathan is a world-renowned environmental scientist, sustainability expert, author, and public speaker. His work is focused on understanding our changing planet, and finding new solutions to sustain the climate, ecosystems, and natural resources on which we all depend.
Dr. Foley provided an in-depth appraisal of where we stand with respect to climate change and global warming. And he made the point that there is yet room – indeed, a necessity – for optimism.
I had the good fortune to sit down – virtually, of course – with Alyssa Norwood, until very recently our project manager for certification & innovation. She, along with the incomparable Jess LeClaire, was responsible for bringing so many towns in the state across the finish line of certification. Alyssa was a founding member of the Sustainable CT team, so I wanted to hear her take on our group’s founding and her part in it, and what she thought was important and inspiring about Sustainable CT. We ended up talking about many things – from housing policy to what it means to be an end-of-life doula. Here's our conversation recorded on March 22.
A compelling and informative discussion about engaging community members in the creation of municipal policy and compensating them for the benefit of their lived experience.