Jackie Kozak Thiel - Chief Sustainability Officer at Fort Collins, CO

Jackie Kozak Thiel - Chief Sustainability Officer at Fort Collins, CO

Jackie is the Chief Sustainability Officer for city of Fort Collins where she oversees the departments of environmental services, economic health, and social sustainability. Fort Collins has some of the most ambitious climate action goals in the world, including carbon neutrality by 2050. Formerly, Jackie worked as the Governor’s State Sustainability Coordinator for Hawaii, where she led the launch of the Aloha+ Challenge with the public-private partnership Hawaii Green Growth.

Jackie joins Sustainable Nation to discuss:

  • Leading sustainability programs in local government.

  • Lessons learned from managing sustainability efforts on an island community.

  • Developing and implementing Climate Action Plans.

  • Advice and recommendations for sustainability professionals.

Jackie's Final Five Responses:

What is one piece of advice you would give other sustainability professionals that might help them in their careers?

Besides kind of the being both data driven and value based, the other one I would give is being authentic, because so much of what we need to do to be successful is in forging strong partnerships because we are looking at transforming systems. And so I think bringing authentic servant leadership is going to be critical for us to be successful at that. I think that's what I would really recommend to folks. And also, to just recognize we can't know it all, right? And so we're looking at transforming systems to recognize the assets and strength of being a generalist who can help to connect dots and engage experts or sectors that will help you to accomplish things and not necessarily thinking that you need to be an expert in everything. So that's not possible. And also we miss a lot because we don't engage others expertise.

Jackie, what are you most excited about right now in the world of sustainability and regenerative development?

I think what is exciting for me, Josh, I think about Paul Hawkins Blessed Unrest and he talked about if you brought the indigenous peoples movement and the environmental sustainability movement and the social justice movements together, just the power of that. And I think what I'm excited about is just that there's so much more conversation about equity and affordability in sustainability than there ever was before. And I think just about the new sector allies. I mean, I just was meeting someone from the health sector today, and not only how excited I am about those partnerships, but the lenses and the expertise and the community engagements that the social sector will bring to sustainability is really exciting to me.

What is one book you would recommend sustainability professionals read?

I know that's a super geeky, but I my did my master's thesis on implementing sustainability plans and policies. Because my question was, why did bad things happen to good plans? And how do we actually honor the planning process by making it happen. And so I've found so much great literature actually from the public administration field actually for local governments for sustainability that are really great. It's not a book, it's more of like a handbook, but I think for sustainability professionals it just is so helpful because it has case studies and also talks to you about what you need to have in place in terms of metrics and goals and partnerships to really execute on the goals you've set. think it’s something like Implementing Sustainability Plans.  But it's been a great tool for me.

What are some of your favorite resources or tools that really help you in the work that you do? This could be websites, technologies, software programs, guide books, any type of resources or tools that help you out that you'd recommend.

I worked at a state level for the governor of Hawaii and now I'm in a local level and I'm so excited to be part of the Urban Sustainability Directors Network. Being part of that network if you're working at a local level with cities is there's a treasure trove of resources that we share as peers. I can't say enough about that and the whole team here at Fort Collins also, we just joined the government alliance on racial equity. So again, for local governments that are looking at building capacity in terms of supporting equity and inclusion in their communities, the government alliance on racial equity is an incredible resource. So those, you know, in terms of public sector have been just so helpful to me.

Finally, where can our listeners go to learn more about you and the work that you're doing to Fort Collins?

https://www.fcgov.com/ There's lots to explore there in terms of the sustainability work, the climate work that we're doing on that page and all the related pages.