Twelve organizations presented a total of sixteen awards celebrating the efforts, dedication, and accomplishments of a wide variety of recipients at the 17th Choose Environmental Excellence Awards Luncheon held today at the White River Conference Center. Each presenting organization at the Awards Luncheon determines their specific award criteria and selection process as well as their own physical symbol of their recognition – often presenting creative and unique works of art in addition to being meaningful keepsakes for the recipients. Choose Environmental Excellence provides a venue for bringing these local environmental/conservation agencies and organizations together to celebrate those who have made special contributions toward their respective missions.
The Environmental Collaborative of the Community Partnership of the Ozarks recognized efforts exemplifying partnering and collaborating to foster an appreciation of the role that a healthy natural environment plays in the health and well being of the southwest Missouri region. Rhonda Burnett, Community Conservation Planner with the Missouri Department of Conservation and Vice-Chair of the Collaborative, presented the award to Greg Burris, Springfield City Manager. The world of a Springfield city manager’s responsibilities, as Greg has often said, covers everything from an airport to a cemetery to a zoo and a whole lot of things in between. Early in his career with the City, Greg made the environment a priority and, in doing so, bought us a seat at the big folks’ table. Big picture visioning and planning are definite strengths for Greg and he put these talents to good use in initiating a completely new and unique approach to dealing with environmental challenges, needs and requirements. Because of his ability to bring together a diverse working group and to communicate the long-time and proven commitment of the City of Springfield, Greene County and City Utilities of Springfield to our regulatory partners, working with other City staff, the first truly integrated approach to environmental issues in the country was created. Greg’s view of the environment may be somewhat different from many of us in this room – the environment isn’t his first passion, but by positioning environmental challenges on the same level as the other challenges facing our community, he gave us all credibility and legitimacy. Sometimes a dollar sign is what you need to get people’s attention and for them to realize this environmental stuff is serious business. For his work on the Integrated Plan, the Trash Efficiency Study, stormwater funding, wastewater I and I reduction, ozone and particulate matter levels, and all those other sexy environmental matters, the Collaborative recognizes and thanks Greg Burris.
The Missouri State University Sustainability Advisory Committee recognized efforts that demonstrate a sustained commitment to environmental excellence, programming that makes an impact on environmental excellence, and outcomes that indicate that the award winner is making a difference. Co-Chair, Dr. Tammy Jahnke, Dean of the College of Natural and Applied Science and David Vaughan, Director of Environmental Management, presented the award to Dr. Judith Meyer. Dr. Meyer has been a driving force for sustainability education and engagement at MSU. Without her Principles of Sustainability (GRY108) course, MSU students would not have the foundational knowledge they need to be successful in this growing field. This course is the core of the sustainability minor now available to all MSU students. All students in GRY 108 are required to complete a semester project which may take the form of a research project or volunteering for an organization associated with sustainability. Every semester, students in GRY 108 volunteer at the following organizations or agencies: Discovery Center of Springfield; Watershed Committee of the Ozarks; James River Basin Partnership; City of Springfield’s Department of Environmental Services; Ozarks Food Harvest; Habitat for Humanity; and Springfield Community Gardens. Four students submitted comments and here are two of them: 1) "Dr. Meyer is deserving of this award not only for her commitment to sustainability across campus, but for the guidance and mentorship she offers every student in her classroom. As an educator Dr. Meyer has the unique ability to not only foster personal relationships with her students, but to inspire them to be better environmentalists and global stewards. Her open-door policy helped me improve my performance academically and professionally, through direction on internships and career paths to reach my potential. I will be forever grateful for the sense of direction and leadership Dr. Meyer provided." --Kirsten Schaefer, current grad student that just accepted job as a Geologist with USGS. 2)"Dr. Meyer changed my perspective on sustainability in one semester. Her ideas on sustainability within the environment and style of teaching has expanded my general knowledge and inspired me to view the world from many different perspectives such as from a scientist's point of view, an engineer's point of view, and an artist's point of view. Her style of teaching will continue to inspire future generations of students to review their perspectives on the natural world and leave a lighter footprint on the ground we hold sacred." --Miranda Jordan, Graduate Student in GGP
The Watershed Committee of the Ozarks showcases accomplishments that further the protection of Springfield’s drinking water resources. The Watershed Committee is now celebrating their 34th year. Mike Kromrey, Executive Director, presented their two awards.
Steve Meyer, Director of the City’s Department of Environmental Services, a professional engineer, returned to his hometown of Springfield in 1987 to join the City. Over the course of his more than 30 years with the City, he has held the titles of associate engineer, sanitary engineer, superintendent of solid waste management, superintendent of street maintenance, assistant director of Public Works and, his last position held, Director of the Department of Environmental Services. During his time at the City, he led the creation and implementation of the City’s voter-approved Integrated Solid Waste Management System. In 2011, he was deeply involved in the negotiation of the City’s amended consent decree with state and federal regulators to outline a plan to meet the requirements of the 1972 federal Clean Water Act, saving the City millions of dollars. He oversaw the creation of the Department of Environmental Services, separating these operations from the Public Works Department. Both departments are accredited by the American Public Works Association. Steve has also been active in leadership roles on local, state and national levels. The Watershed Committee of the Ozarks applauds his career of public service and his commitment to the natural environment of our region.
Jordan Schanda, former MSU Sustainability Coordinator, graduated with honors from University of Arkansas in 2012, where she received her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, minoring in statistics and sustainability. She obtained her Master of Science in Administrative Studies from Missouri State University, where she later became MSU’s the Sustainability Coordinator. In this role, she led the University’s first sustainability strategic planning process, using the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education’s Sustainability Tracking, Assessment, and Rating System (AESHAE STARS) as a guide. Jordan values the intersection between relationships and analysis and believes that sustainability reporting is essential for creating change. Her contributions will leave a lasting impact on Missouri State University, including thousands of gallons of water saved through ongoing water conservation efforts and the installation of reusable water bottle refilling stations.
The City of Springfield’s Solid Waste Management Division of the Department of Environmental Services oversees and implements the facilities, services, and programs of the voter-approved Integrated Solid Waste Management System. Ashley Krug, Market Development Coordinator in the City’s Sustainability Division of the Department of Environmental Services, presented the Division’s award to Nancy Lucas, Building Maintenance Custodial Team Leader with the City’s Department of Public Works. Nancy has been instrumental in supporting and implementing sustainability and recycling goals throughout the City organization. In this role, she has worked with staff to not only implement recycling efforts, but to grow those efforts, serving 12 plus facilities on a daily basis. In this year alone, those facilities have recycled over 12,000 pounds of material thanks to Nancy and her staff’s continued support of the program. Additionally, as more City facilities seek out LEED certification, Nancy has worked to ensure that these LEED buildings meet the strict maintenance and management guidelines for environmentally responsible custodial services and pest management working with staff to come to solutions that work for all parties involved. (Well, maybe not the pests.) For these reasons and SO many more, Solid Waste Management staff thanks Nancy for her continued support for recycling in Springfield, for her 24 years of service to the City, and for always greeting us with a big smile and cheerful spirit.
The City of Springfield’s Water Quality Division of the Dept. of Environmental Services works to improve and protect water quality through programs and projects that address stormwater pollution and the health of aquatic and riparian ecosystems. Carrie Lamb, Water Quality Compliance Officer, presented their award. Vital Farms was chosen by the City of Springfield’s Water Quality Division as their 2018 Award recipient for their use of stormwater green infrastructure practices in the design of their new egg processing facility. The site was carefully designed to protect water quality by minimizing impacts to sinkholes and by reducing stormwater runoff through the use of rain gardens and pervious pavement. They voluntarily preserved trees throughout the site and designed the landscaping using native plants that provide benefits for pollinators and celebrate the unique flora and fauna of the Ozarks. The site is a reflection of their core mission of bringing ethically produced food to the table and demonstrates that environmental excellence and social good go hand in hand. Russell Diez-Canseco and Heather Reinkemeyer from Vital Farms accepted the award.
The Ozarks Clean Air Alliance, a subcommittee of the Environmental Collaborative of the Community Partnership of the Ozarks, presented an award recognizing efforts made to benefit the health of citizens in the region through air quality protection and improvement. Daniel Hedrick, Director of Environmental Affairs for City Utilities and OCAA member, presented their award to Brian Adams, Coordinator of Air Quality Control for the City of Springfield Department of Environmental Services. Brian is a 1979 graduate of the University of Missouri in Columbia, with a Bachelor of Science degree in Atmospheric Science from MU’s College of Agriculture. After working for a couple of weather forecasting companies in St Louis, in August, 1980, Brian began working for the St Louis County Health Department in the Air Pollution Control Division. In late November, 1983, an Air Quality position opened up in the City of Springfield and Brian was hired. In January, 1984, Brian began working at the Springfield-Greene County Health Department in the Air Pollution Control Division to do industrial air inspections, complaint investigations, asbestos inspections and air emissions inventory duties. In 2006, Brian began doing the daily air quality forecasts on the website AirNow.gov for the Springfield area that can be heard on weather radio and seen on Weather Underground and the Weather Channel. Brian became Coordinator of Air Quality Control in 2008, and in July, 2011, the Air Quality Control Division moved to the new Department of Environmental Services and into the Environmental Resource Center along with the City’s Waste Management, Water Quality and Sustainability Divisions. Brian is a founding member and an integral part of the Ozarks Clean Air Alliance and also serves on the Community Partnership of the Ozarks Environmental Collaborative. His mild demeanor and willingness to always be of help is recognized and appreciated by the businesses with whom he works, by other City staff and by the regulatory community. Married to wife Laurie for over 35 years, they are the proud parents of a son and two daughters, and the grandparents of two boys and a girl, with a fourth grandbaby expected in August. Brian has announced his retirement date from the City of Springfield for this October – now he’ll have much more time to spend with those grandbabies.
The Springfield Plateau Missouri Master Naturalist Chapter recognized the outstanding contributions of individuals toward conservation of the natural environment. Melvin Johnson, founding member and previous Choose Environmental Excellence award recipient presented the awards.
Linda Chorice, retired manager of the Springfield Conservation Nature Center, originally from Wichita, Kansas, Linda is a graduate of (then) Southwest Missouri State University with a degree in Wildlife Conservation & Management. She came to the Missouri Department of Conservation in 1984 as a Naturalist at Burr Oak Woods Conservation Nature Center. She transferred to Springfield and began working at our Conservation Nature Center 5 weeks before it opened in October, 1988. In 1989, she was promoted to Assistant Manager and then to Nature Center Manager on April Fool’s Day, 1998, being only the second manager of the facility. She recently retired following over 30 years of service with MDC. Linda is known for her gracious demeanor, her professionalism, and her willingness to collaborate and work with so many partnering groups and the army of Nature Center volunteers. She’s also known for her sharp wit and sense of humor. The Master Naturalist Chapter thanks Linda for a career of service and dedication to protecting our natural resources and educating citizens about the value and care of those resources.
Branden Powell and Deah Powell Seiferd, Junior Leaders. The Missouri Master Naturalist Springfield Plateau Chapter also honored two up and coming high school teenagers for their outstanding environmental/conservation volunteer efforts. Since August, 2014, both Deah Powell Seiferd and her brother Branden Powell have volunteered in excess of 600+ hours as Missouri Department of Conservation Junior Leaders under the guidance of the Missouri Master Naturalist Springfield Plateau Chapter. Deah and Branden’s specialty area is Snake Awareness Education and Safety utilizing live non-venomous Missouri native snakes from the Missouri Department of Conservation’s Southwest Regional Office. They’ve given their presentations in numerous schools throughout southwest Missouri, educating not only the students but the teachers and school staff as well. They also reached thousands of participants at public events such as: Bass Pro Shop’s Outdoor Days Events, Bennett Springs State Park Nature Center, the Interpreters Coalition’s Home School Fair, James River Basin Partnership’s River Jam, KY-3 Safe ‘N Sound Event, Logan – Rogersville Fire Department’s Fishing Days and Safety Day Camp, Missouri State University’s Bull Shoals Field Station, National Archery In Schools Missouri Championships in Branson, Rogersville’s JAKE Event, Table Rock Lake State Park, and more. They’ve assisted with displays and presentations in Bat and Cave Awareness and Outdoor Hazards – Safety; and Winter Bat Surveys. They’ve participated in MELAB (Missouri Environmental Literacy Advisory Board), Springfield Environmental Summit, and were keynote speakers for the 2017 Springfield Plateau Grotto’s Banquet. In this time of generational transition, Deah and Branden are the present and the future of Environmental/Conservation – Nature - Outdoor Awareness Education.
The City of Springfield’s Clean Water Services Division of the Department of Environmental Services is charged with the responsibility of the collection, transport, and treatment of millions of gallons of sewage through a network of pipes and award-winning wastewater treatment facilities. John Waitman, Environmental Compliance Officer, presented the award to Mike DeLong, Superintendent of Collection Systems. Mike became the Superintendent of Collection Systems for the City of Springfield in July of 2015. Mike had previously retired from two earlier careers, including a 35-year career in the Water Department of City Utilities of Springfield. Mike came and immediately took charge of the largest sewer rehabilitation effort the City of Springfield had ever undertaken. In an effort to protect groundwater, our local streams, aquatic life, and public health, Mike is directing a $15M/ year endeavor to get 100% of wastewater from the “generator” (that’s you in the audience) to the wastewater treatment plant and keep all the stormwater out of the wastewater collection system as well. More than 2,200 private plumbing defects contributing stormwater inflow and infiltration to the City sewer have been located and repaired, and many back-flow devices have been installed to protect our residents and public health. The results of efforts being undertaken by the City, with Mike’s direction, can be clearly seen in a reduction in the number of sanitary sewer overflows, residential basement backups, a reduction in wet weather volume at the treatment plants, and an improvement in the quality of groundwater, which means healthier streams, aquatic life, and reduced human health risk. When asked to describe Mike, his coworkers and City management use words and phrases like “Organized”, “Focused”, “Honest”, and “Kind.” Mike is the embodiment of the heart and mission of the Choose Environmental Excellence Awards, striving to make our local environment even more excellent.
Tree City USA Citizen Advisory Committee recognized efforts toward protecting and enhancing Springfield’s community forest. Mindy Spitz, Chair, presented their award to Fran Giglio. Fran is an excellent example of the critical role citizen volunteers play in the success of the efforts of organziations such as Tree City USA Citizen Advisory Committee. She also exemplifies the love our community has for our trees, our parks and our neighborhoods. Tree City USA Citizen Advisory Committee appreciates all tree heroes, and there is no greater tree hero than Fran Giglio. The historic Ice Storm of 2007 dealt a devastating blow to the beautiful trees in Phelps Grove Park. Following the storm, Fran and her Husband Jim Giglio began planting trees in the park. To date, Fran has helped to plant 125 trees in the park as well as keeping them mulched and watering them using a little red wagon. Last year, the Phelps Neighborhood Association raised some funds to purchase a heavy-duty gator to water the many young trees. The Giglios pitched in the remainder of the funds needed and now there is a 25-gallon tank for watering, instead of the little red wagon that Fran used for years. Tree City USA Citizen Advisory Committee salutes Fran Giglio and her devotion to our community trees!
The Springfield-Greene County Environmental Advisory Board presented two awards recognizing, businesses, agencies, groups or individuals that have gone beyond normal practices to promote or support sustainable environmentally responsible activities. David Vaughan, Director of Environmental Management, MSU, and EAB Chair, presented the awards to Carrie Lamb, Water Quality Compliance Officer and Chris Dunnaway, Principal Engineer, both in the Water Quality Division of the City’s Department of Environmental Services. EAB selected Carrie Lamb and Chris Dunnaway for their outstanding dedication to the major project of preparing, refining, and presenting the updates to Springfield's Flood Control and Water Quality Protection Manual. The manual contains the standards that are used to plan, design, build, and maintain stormwater infrastructure on both private development and City-owned facilities to control flooding and protect water quality. It was adopted by the Springfield City Council on December 11, 2017. Southwest Missouri values it's water resources -- including our local rivers, streams, lakes and drinking water supply -- and strives to protect the quality of the water to benefit both those who live here, as well as those who visit. Carrie and Chris worked tirelessly for months to coordinate the revisions with input from the Stormwater Design Criteria Manual Review Committee, as well as the Developer Issues Input Group (DIIG), to work through the concerns that were presented by various community representatives, and to compile a meaningful update to the stormwater code that is a benefit to our Ozarks environment. Chris and Carrie typically work unseen, therefore it is important that this opportunity is taken to recognize them for their outstanding efforts to protect and preserve our water quality.
The Greater Ozarks Audubon Society recognized exemplary efforts toward their mission of promoting bird conservation in southwest Missouri. Dr. Janice Greene, Professor, Missouri State University and Chair, presented their award to Jan and Jim Carter, a couple who have been volunteering in conservation projects of many kinds for a long time. With their retirement 7 years ago, they have become even more active volunteers. They have been monitoring and maintaining the Greater Ozarks Audubon blue bird nesting trail at Fellows Lake for 20 years. Hundreds of young blue birds have fledged under their care. The Carters have been the daily unofficial shoreline trash cleanup crew at Fellows as well, hauling truckloads of trash away. Removing dangerous discarded filament fishing line has been particularly important for birds as well as other wildlife. Jan has been a docent at the Dickerson Park Zoo for 20 years helping with conservation education raptor programs including the bald and golden eagles, as well as mammals and reptiles. She and Jim pitch in to repair enclosures and provide raptor perches for the education department at the zoo as needed. For the last 12 years, Jan has volunteered with the Southwest Missouri Humane Society helping care for animals, plus she and Jim work to maintain the walking trails and landscaping at the Humane Society. Jan has helped with trash removal at the South Creek Audubon project in Springfield for 20 years, and Jim and Jan have volunteered hundreds of hours cutting and removing invasive plant species along South Creek. With Jim running the chain saw, Bradford pears and bush honeysuckle have been essentially eliminated along that small urban creek and replaced with native plants.
The Ozarks Headwaters Recycling and Materials Management District (formerly Solid Waste Management District “O”) Executive Board recognized efforts toward waste reduction and recycling with their Environmental Service Award. The District includes the counties of Christian, Polk, Dallas, Greene and Webster. Erick Roberts, Superintendent of Solid Waste Management, City of Springfield Department of Environmental Services and District Board Chair, presented the award to Tim Smith, Deputy City Manager of the City of Springfield and immediate past Chair of the Executive Board. Throughout Tim’s entire career, including his years as Resource Manager at Greene County, he has exhibited and acted upon his commitment to protect the natural environment of our region. In the solid waste arena, he served as District Chair from 2000 until his retirement in 2017. From 2000-2012 he even also served as the chair of the state Solid Waste Advisory Board (SWAB), earning our District the reputation of being progressive, efficient and fair in their dealings with the citizens of the five counties that form the District, with the state regulatory staff, and with elected officials on both state and local levels.
Twice during his tenure at SWAB, legislation affecting the governance of the districts was created and passed. Funding available to the District for annual distribution via competitive grants has grown from less than $90,000 when the district was formed in the mid-1990’s to nearly $400,000 in the current cycle. As a result of the local district grant program, all citizens of the five counties of the District have access to a recycling center within 25 miles of their homes and the availability of Springfield’s Household Chemical Collection Center at no cost to them.
Additional Photos from the Day