January 2016

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Nick Deffley, Director of Environmental Services & Sustainability, City of Savannah
Despite growing up and going to school in the Midwest at the University of Minnesota, Savannah has always felt like a home away from home for Nick Deffley. Much of Nick’s family relocated to Savannah over the years and Nick even lived in Savannah for short period of time in the late 1990s. In 2012, after the birth of their son and over ten years in Minnesota, Nick and his wife felt a calling to be closer to family and made the move to Savannah for good.
Nick came to the City of Savannah in 2014. His academic background in public policy and environmental studies served to be a perfect fit for his position, which was new to the City. The office of environmental services and sustainability was initiated by the city manager to bring sustainability in to all aspects of city planning. Nick’s charge – to carve out a space for sustainability within city government – allowed him the opportunity to make an impact in a new way, and to have flexibility in the way this impact happened. To Nick, sustainability is about thinking innovatively about transportation, water, open space, urban development, and also bringing equity into these efforts. His first full-time job in Savannah was working with a poverty reduction nonprofit where he focused on workforce development with populations who have low entry opportunities to jobs. He worked in this capacity for a year and a half, and this work significantly influenced the way that he focused his approach on sustainability. To Nick, a sustainability programs must be equitable.
 Nick’s program is growing and so is his team. Ashley Helmholdt came on board at the end of September 2015 and she brings a background in food systems, environmental outreach and understanding the impact sustainability has on building healthy communities. As the coordinator, she’s providing support around regulatory compliance support, grant writing and sustainability planning efforts. Notable projects include:
  • City of Savannah’s Sustainability Plan – Savannah was one of the first cities to sign on to the Compact of Mayors and Nick’s office is working diligently on a sustainability plan for the City as part of this effort. This will be the road map for the whole city for sustainability efforts. It will include a full inventory of policy efforts city already has that can support sustainability and will highlight where there are gaps and opportunities to integrate sustainability efforts.
  • Truman Linear Park Trail – this is Savannah’s newest effort around active transportation trails, and Nick’s department is focused on development of a 6 mile trail. It’s Nick’s hope that this joint project between city and county can be the beginning of a larger greenway and blue way network throughout the city. This project has been in conception since 1970s so he is excited that his office has a hand in making it come to life.
  • Brownfields & Urban Development – Nick’s office is exploring urban development opportunities in a blighted corridor that include working with EPA to build a brownfield program that could help build opportunity.
  • Public Recycling - Savannah does not have any public recycling, so Nick’s office completed a pilot project last year where they placed curbside recycling bins next to trash bins on River Street for nine months. Data estimates that such an effort could potentially collect ten tons a year, and substantially more if it were scaled up to include all of downtown. This effort is serving as a catalyst to other departments to begin promoting public recycling.
When he’s not at work, Nick likes to play the piano, woodworking and traveling. He and his wife and son recently took a trip to Rocky Mountain National Park where they were able to unplug and reconnect with nature. To Nick, being outside in the natural world is a heady reminder that his work is important and makes a difference. Seeing his son interact with the world around him also reminds him that his work will be important for generations to come, and instilling values of respect for the environment in the next generation is a legacy he wants to see continue. 
The 2016 SSDN Annual Meeting is April 6-8 in Atlanta. Details about the meeting, accommodations, and travel are now live on the SSDN website and registration is now open. If you plan to attend, please register online before February 8.
Travel arrangements must be made and emailed to Meg Jamison at futuretracestrategies@gmail.com prior to March 1 so that we can make appropriate arrangements related to accommodations.
2016 Member Survey: As part of the Regional Network Pilot Program SSDN delegates as that all members participate in a member survey which will launch the week of February 8, 2016. The purpose of this survey is to provide your network with feedback and baseline data about the satisfaction of members and their connections with each other. With this information the network can improve the value it creates for its members. It can also show potential funders and partners what sort of capacity the network is building
2016 SSDN Membership: SSDN is now accepting 2016 annual membership dues. Payment can be made with a check or can be paid online. If you have any questions about payment please email Meg Jamison at futuretracestrategies@gmail.com.
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Southeast Sustainability Directors Network
A Project of the Chalice Oak Foundation

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