About the Speakers:
Zach Baumer, Climate Program Manager, City of Austin Office of Sustainability
Zach Baumer has been with the City of Austin since 2011 where he manages the Climate Program in the City of Austin’s Office of Sustainability. His primary duties include overseeing the implementation of climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies across the City organization and community. Prior to the City of Austin, Zach spent 10 years working in the environmental consulting industry, primarily assisting large industrial clients with environmental data management, greenhouse gas inventories, and sustainability planning. Zach holds an MBA in Sustainable Management from the Presidio Graduate School and undergraduate degrees in Chemistry and Chemical Engineering from Purdue University.
Douglas Melnick, AICP, CNU-A, Chief Sustainability Officer, City of San Antonio
Douglas Melnick was named the City of San Antonio’s first Chief Sustainability Officer in March 2014 and oversaw the development of the SA Tomorrow Sustainability Plan, as well as the SA Climate Ready Climate Action and Adaptation Plan that was adopted by City Council in October 2019. This plan is San Antonio’s first plan designed to meet the objectives of the Paris Climate Agreement, calls for carbon neutrality by 2050, and is grounded in climate equity. He has eighteen years of local government experience and previously served as Director of Planning & Sustainability for the City of Albany, NY. Mr. Melnick serves as a core member of the Urban Sustainability Director's Network (USDN) and is Chairman of the Board for Build San Antonio Green. He is member of the American Institute of Certified Planners, a CNU-Accredited Professional, and an ISSP-Sustainability Associate.
Susan Alvarez, PE, CFM, Assistant Director for Dallas Environmental Quality & Sustainability
Susan Alvarez is currently serving as the Assistant Director of the Office of Environmental Quality & Sustainability for the City of Dallas. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering, with a minor in geology from Rice University, and postgraduate work in water resources. She is a Registered Professional Engineer in Texas and 5 other western states, and is also a Certified Floodplain Manager, and Master Naturalist in Texas. She is currently responsible for the development of the City’s Comprehensive Environmental & Climate Action Plan under the Paris Agreement, efforts towards Environmental Outreach and Engagement, Urban Agriculture, City Environmental Management Systems and the Urban Forest Master Plan.
Lara Cottingham, Chief of Staff & Chief Sustainability Officer, City of Houston, Administration & Regulatory Affairs Department
With 13 years of communications and public policy experience, Lara is the Chief of Staff of the Administration and Regulatory Affairs Department and the Chief Sustainability Officer for the City of Houston. In addition to leading the Mayor’s Sustainability Office, Lara is the public face of ARA in the media as well as before City Council, industry stakeholders, and customers.
Prior to joining the City of Houston, Lara was a member of Hill+Knowlton Strategies’ Houston office, providing strategic counsel in sustainability and social responsibility issues for a broad range of clients across the energy sector. Lara worked in Washington, DC and served as Communications Director for the Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, Vice Chairman of the House Transportation Committee, and Vice Chairman of the Sustainable Energy and Environment Caucus, as well as for congressional campaigns in Colorado, West Virginia, and Texas. She also produced a web-based reality show for CNN and served as a Government & Marketing Consultant for SXSW Interactive in Austin.
Lara attended the University of Texas in Austin where she graduated magna cum laude with degrees in History, Ancient History & Classical Civilizations, and Government. In 2013, she earned an MBA in Energy Finance and Public Affairs from the University of Texas at Austin’s McCombs School of Business, where she co-founded the UT Energy Savings Fund.
Nicole Ferrini, Chief Resilience Officer, Director, Community + Human Development, City of El Paso, will moderate the discussion including a Q&A with participants.
Holding degrees in both interior design and architecture from Texas Tech University, Nicole has leveraged her background in design and systems thinking to launch a career building better, stronger, more prosperous communities. In 2007, she founded Uncommon LLC, a private consulting firm, as a mechanism to affect positive change within the urban environment. Uncommon established the “Build for Life” concept focused on creating places that move with the way we live now, remain adaptive for the way we will live tomorrow and constantly maintain respect for the rich cultural history that represents where we’ve come from.
In 2013, the City of El Paso became one of the first cities in the world to join the 100 Resilient Cities initiative pioneered by the Rockefeller Foundation. In 2014, Nicole became El Paso’s first Chief Resilience Officer (CRO). The CRO is an innovative position in city government that reports directly to the city’s chief executive and acts as the city’s point person for coordinating citywide efforts that address social, environmental and economic challenges. After 3 years of intensive community engagement, research and planning, Nicole led the team that completed the City’s first comprehensive Resilience Strategy; a roadmap of actions aimed at propelling El Paso forward toward realization of our full potential as a prospering binational metroplex.
Most recently Nicole has been appointed Director of Community + Human Development for the City of El Paso. In this role she continues to raise the bar for city leadership by provoking innovation among civic leaders, industry professionals and the community at large. She remains focused on building grass roots resilience at a regional scale emphasizing dynamic solutions to the challenges of climate instability, urban development, economic prosperity and social justice.