REGISTER VIEWPOINT: Does Sandusky need a sustainability czar?

Someone who can help usher Sandusky into a green, energy-efficient future or just another bureaucrat collecting a salary?
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010

Someone who can help usher Sandusky into a green, energy-efficient future or just another bureaucrat collecting a salary?

The proposed position of sustainability director for the city of Sandusky has the potential to be either.

That the position can work, and be valuable to the city which creates it, has been demonstrated by David Konkel, who sort of created the position and job description for himself -- his actual title is energy coordinator -- in the city of Ann Arbor, Mich.

Konkel has wrought changes big and small for his employer -- ranging from office lights that turn themselves off if the office is vacant, to golf carts instead of larger vehicles for routine city travel. He persuaded a major gasoline retailer to sell biofuel. The savings, he claims, have added up for Ann Arbor.

Certainly Sandusky could make many of the same changes, with or without an energy coordinator or sustainabilty director or whatever the job is called.

However, the chief value of such a position would be to keep the city apprised of any and all trends in sustainabilty and energy-efficiency. The person filling the position would also have to be constantly thinking of how the latest developments could be profitably employed here -- and, if the benefits are long-term, how to convince the city and its taxpayers the short-term cost is worth it.

This can't be just a person in an office. The way Konkel describes it, sustainability is all about changes, large and small, that affect the details of how the city does its business.

Given Sandusky's resistance -- both officially and in daily life -- to leave its well-worn path, that person will have to have considerable persuasive and diplomatic skills. There's that leadership thing again.

And the savings will have to be worth his or her salary.