Ben Mjolsness refuses to let issues of the environment and sustainability fade into the background for the city of Naperville, knowing the role that municipalities can play in effecting change. He said community groups, such as the Naperville Environment and Sustainability Task Force, push the city to do better.
“There’s been good work happening,” Mjolsness said. “I’ve been brought on because we believe that it’s necessary to do more and we can do more.”
On June 14, Naperville officials named Mjolsness the city’s first sustainability coordinator.
The position allows the city to continue making strides in its efforts to address issues with the environment and sustainability. Mjolsness is charged with leading initiatives that fall under the umbrella of sustainability, which spans to anything from transportation and engineering to waste management and recycling.
A little more than a month on the job, Mjolsness said he still feels fairly new to the position.
Mjolsness has a Masters degree in environmental management and sustainability from the Illinois Institute of Technology. He comes to Naperville having worked in sales and operations in the waste/recycling industry and as a sustainability consultant in the private sector.
Why Choose Naperville?
Mjolsness said the city has done a promising job with its efforts to address issues with the environment and sustainability.
“They’ve got a steady and pretty sustained focus on trying to do the right thing for our residents but also the environment,” he said.
Mjolsness refutes the idea that bureaucratic red tape presents a challenge to working in municipal government to promote sustainability.
“I think the idea of bureaucratic red tape is a little bit of an older idea in government,” he said. “It’s applicable to bigger governments, but at the local level, I think, we’re able to be a little bit more responsive to our constituents. … I think the reason we need to take our time is we need to do our due diligence when we’re making these plans.”
If, for example, the city needed to make a big decision that has impacts for years to come to residents, the environment, ecosystems and businesses, the right decision must be made, Mjolsness said.
“It’s important to work with our partners, to have a lot of communication, to be open and transparent, and to be honest,” he said.
Mjolsness said the sustainability coordinator position helps provide for a more direct role in effecting change at the municipal level than any job he’s held in the past.
Commitment to Collaboration Emphasized
Mjolsness is charged with working in conjunction with departmental heads and subject matter experts to help make sure the city stays on track with meeting objectives and looks for opportunities to expand on sustainability efforts. He also intends to work with members of the Naperville Environment and Sustainability Task Force and other community groups.
“We’re partners in this,” he said. “I’m working with my team to figure it out. … I’m talking with directors of departments and the city manager.”
Mjolsness said it’s his job to figure out how to make all the moving parts come together.
“My goal is to be the go-to person for anybody in and around Naperville who is interested in or wants to learn more about sustainability,” Mjolsness said.
Naperville News 17’s Megann Horstead reports.
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Photo Courtesy of City of Naperville.