Wilmette backs up eco-friendly plans by creating a new position: sustainability coordinator
For the future, Wilmette governments are acting now.
As of February, five local agencies — led by the Village and park district — are sharing a sustainability coordinator, a newly created position responsible for improving sustainability efforts and education villagewide.
The idea for a sustainability coordinator came out of Wilmette’s Intergovernmental Cooperation Committee in 2022. Village Manager Mike Braiman said sustainability was the first topic the rebuilt committee tackled as the agencies looked to find “ways to all work together to leverage expertise and advance” their respective earth-friendly strategies.
The position is primarily shared between the Village of Wilmette and Wilmette Park District, each entity receiving 45.5 percent of the sustainability coordinator’s time. The other 9 percent is split evenly between the Wilmette Public Library, Wilmette School District 39 and New Trier Township.
According to Village of Wilmette documents, the Village is responsible for employment, including the administration of salary and benefits, and will receive annual reimbursement from the participating agencies.
“The reason a shared position made sense to me is that it will provide consistency across units of government, and likely help find efficiencies more readily, when looking to enhance sustainability practices,” said Steve Wilson, the park district’s executive director, in an email. “For example, as we develop a sustainability plan for the park district, having a shared staff member who is actively working with the Village’s sustainability plan will lead to a lot of efficiency for us, and likely lead to community-wide benefits as well.”
The person to take on the new Wilmette challenge is Lucy Mellen, who started as sustainability coordinator in February.
In her previous role, Mellen was relief coordinator for Beat the Heat, a grant-funded program in Richmond, Indiana.
“I knew I wanted a broader position than my last role,” she said in a press release from the Wilmette Park District, “and I was intrigued by the collaborative nature of the position in Wilmette. It shows how important sustainability is to the Village, the park district and the whole community.”
“The goal across all participating organizations is the same: create a more sustainable Wilmette that is a resilient place for residents to live and work.”
In Wilmette, Mellen will work on executing the Village’s sustainability plan, which trustees passed in 2021 and encourages local governments to support a set of 49 environment-forward goals across 10 topics: climate, economic development, energy, land, leadership, mobility, municipal operations, sustainable communities, waste and recycling, and water.
Related to the plan, the Village is about to begin a project to measure its current greenhouse-gas emissions to help track its goal of reducing its carbon footprint, Braiman said.
Similarly at the park district, which maintains 314 acres of parkland, Mellen will lead efforts to inventory the district’s eco-related performance and build and track a sustainability plan.
And while nothing is yet on paper, Mellen said the district is off to a good start.
“It may not be working from a concrete plan, but the park district has been implementing sustainable practices for years,” she said, adding, “It’s all about ensuring that future generations are able to enjoy all the wonderful things we have access to currently. By implementing sustainable practices, the district is only further solidifying that they want to make parks and recreation accessible to everyone for as long as possible.”
All in, the sustainability coordinator costs $99,000 annually, with the Village and park district contributing $45,000 each. The library, D39 and Township are pitching in $3,000 per year each.
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Joe Coughlin is a co-founder and the editor in chief of The Record. He leads investigative reporting and reports on anything else needed. Joe has been recognized for his investigative reporting and sports reporting, feature writing and photojournalism. Follow Joe on Twitter @joec2319