Columbia hires its first sustainability manager

Friday, January 22, 2010 | 5:20 p.m. CST; updated 10:42 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, May 19, 2010

COLUMBIA — Barbara Buffaloe answered a few final questions over coffee Thursday morning before City Manager Bill Watkins offered her the position of Columbia’s first sustainability manager. She accepted.

“She brings a tremendous amount of energy to the job,” Watkins said.

Buffaloe's main task is tackling the U.S. Department of Energy’s block grant.

“She is the person responsible for getting those programs outlined in the grant going and making sure we administer the grant,” Watkins said. “That is the big number one.”

The grant money will be used for three main purposes, Public Communications Director Toni Messina said. They are:

  • $250,000 for the new sustainability office. These expenses include Buffaloe’s salary, administrative expenses, travel and employee benefits.
  • $609,000 to make major city buildings more energy-efficient.
  • $159 ,000 to assess the energy-efficiency of major city facilities.

The grant money will be disbursed over three years. Because a large amount of Buffaloe’s $55,000 salary comes from the grant, the sustainability manager position will be re-evaluated periodically.

“Essentially, what we said is in Year Three we will evaluate the effectiveness of the position,” Watkins said. “And we made that aware to all of our applicants.”

Buffaloe starts in mid-February. Her to-do list also includes setting up the Internal Sustainability Technical Working Group and the City Sustainable Steering Committee.

“The general concept is to make sustainability part of our everyday way of doing business," Messina said, adding that Buffaloe will help with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). Buffaloe has been a LEED Accredited Professional since 2004, when she worked for Pyramid Architects in St. Louis.

“In the future, any time we do major things with buildings, we’re always going to be doing as much as possible to make things more LEED-certified,” Messina said.

Buffaloe was appointed to the Environment and Energy Commission by the City Council three years ago and has chaired the group for two years. She said she stepped out of discussions about the sustainability position because she knew she wanted to apply for the job.

Now Buffaloe will tell the commission at its next meeting that she's stepping down.

She was selected from three finalists, each of whom made a presentation to an interview board and had lunch with a city official; Buffaloe met with Police Chief Ken Burton. She also met with representatives of the Water and Light and Public Works departments.

“My main focus (in the presentation) was on working with relationships that we have and working on strengthening communication between the private sector and the city,” Buffaloe said. “I talked about really working to show Columbia as a leader in energy efficiency and sustainable behaviors.”

Buffaloe also said she would like to see a Web site constructed where people can give feedback, and that she plans to gather resources and spread the word on energy and sustainability issues.

Buffaloe is leaving her job as a housing and environmental design specialist with  University Extension. She said her relationship with MU was an important part of her application.

“I’ll be looking at people at the university who could be key partners in some of our different projects,” she said. One example, Buffaloe said, might be collaborating with MU faculty who are researching geothermal heat.

Watkins said Buffaloe is familiar with the city’s sustainability goals, the grant, and issues in terms of the Conference of Mayors Climate Protection Agreement.

Dan Goldstein, vice chairman of the Environment and Energy Commission, said he is excited Buffaloe comes to the position with knowledge about the city.

“I hope because Barbara has met some of the different key people, she’ll be able to start on things quicker than someone from the outside,” Goldstein said.

Watkins agreed. “Her familiarity with the local situation, being a resident, was a plus in my mind," Watkins said. "It’s a bunch of little things that tip the scale for the best candidate.”

Buffaloe said she will sit down with city department heads and City Council members soon.

“I’m still wrapping my head around the expectations in the job description,” she said.


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Keith Politte January 24, 2010 | 10:53 a.m.

Columbia is very lucky to have Barbara joining the city in her new role. She will be someone to watch. Good luck Barbara!

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