Friday, June 5, 2009

County Hires Sustainability Manager

Meet Jeaneen Zappa:

Ms. Zappa, 43, an accredited professional with the national environmental building standards program known as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design or LEED standards, was most recently the green business development director for the Green Building Alliance. (P-G, Karamagi Rujumba)


Ms. Zappa, whose first day of work is Monday, will be paid $85,000 a year. (ibid)

Holy solar panels! That demands lots of sustaining to take place. Remember the City's sustainability coordinator?

Ms. Baxter will be paid $45,347. (P-G, Rich Lord)

How did Ms. Zappa make out so much better at the County than Ms. Baxter did at the City? One reason may be that Zappa literally wrote the book article on the subject:

How to Ask for Money 9/28/2006
By Jeaneen Zappa, owner of Zappa Consulting, a strategic and tactical marketing firm in Pittsburgh, PA.

What’s the difference between a $70,000 and a $75,000 starting salary? Answer: $381,000. According to author and economist Linda Babcock, Ph.D., keynote speaker at the 2006 Pittsburgh Athena Awards, that’s how much a woman who declines to negotiate the $5,000 increase in her starting salary would leave on the table over a 30-year career.

“The younger the age at which you start negotiating, the bigger the financial impact,” said Babcock, whose 2003 book, “Women Don’t Ask: Negotiation and the Gender Divide,” was named by Fortune Magazine to its list of the “75 smartest business books of all time.” (Jeaneen Zappa, WEDO)

Good for her.

But that caused me to notice that Zappa once managed "a strategic and tactical marketing firm"; that her academic degrees are in magazine journalism and marketing; that her job at the Green Building Alliance was to manage "the Green Building Products Initiative, which seeks to spur economic development in Pennsylvania through the manufacture of green building products and development of related technologies."

Lindsay Baxter on the other hand is earning her Masters in Environmental Science; she was the lead writer and researcher for a Pittsburgh Climate Action Plan that includes such things as turning hot water heaters down to 120 degrees.

So should real environmentalists be leery that by going with Jeaneen Zappa, Allegheny County is headed in a direction of style, marketing and economic development -- with little substance?

On the workbench in her basement, Jeaneen Zappa keeps color-coordinated caulking guns, white for the kitchen, brown for the windows and clear for other parts of the house. For five years she has been using them to fill the gap and holes in her 100-year-old house in Crafton. But she knew it wasn't enough.

So when a friend suggested she get an energy audit from Conservation Consultants Inc., she put down her caulk and reached for the phone. (P-G, Bette McDevitt, 2004)

I'm not sure how that little tableau evolved into mammoth-length story in the Post-Gazette, but she seems very environmentally mindful.

[The GBA's new headquarters in the Terminal Building] really has a lot of important features for us,” said Jeaneen A. Zappa, deputy director of the Alliance. “It’s a historic building and it allows us to show that green building can be done in an existing space and not just a new building, which is a common misconception.” (Trib, Ron DaParma)

Can't fault her for not apprehending important symbolism. It will be interesting to see how Allegheny County's ecological footprint shrinks while the County Executive's political footprint grows.


  1. I heard Baxter speak at the Smart Growth Conference. She seems to have her head on straight, though I think she was a little overwhelmed in the panel she was in. Still, I feel like she knows what she is doing.

    I also find it unintentionally hillarious that this announcement was made on the day that city and county leaders had a public presentation on consolodation. Is there a reason these two ladies can't be working together?

  2. It's becoming a common occurrence that people start a bitch fest about the salaries of 'Sustainability Coordinators" around the country, which will undoubtedly follow in these comments and other local bloggers. Keep in mind however, that one of the goals of a Sustainability Coordinator shouldn't be limited to reducing the carbon footprint, but doing so as inexpensively as possible, or perhaps even saving money for the county in other instances. Ms. Zappa has an MBA from Pitt, and perhaps that outweighs an environmental degree in some aspects of the job.

    Ok people, now go ahead an start complaining about the salary when you know absolutely nothing about this position.

  3. No complaints about the salary from me, although for $85k I would have rather seen someone with some demonstrated experience in implementing projects and initiatives that have saved organizations and governments millions of dollars while simultaneously improving the quality of the region's air, soil, and water. The LEED AP exam isn't that difficult for even a non environmental person to pass. An MBA from PITT? Not the worst program in town, and I can see how someone who picked up an MBA at a quantitative program (i.e. CMU, MIT, etc) might use their analytical skills and some creativity in solving sustainability problems has an edge over someone who learned about air, soil, and water issues in their environmental science courses, but come on now, the county needs someone with some experience tackling environmental problems that are also politically complicated. This should be a roll up your sleeves type of job; the last thing the county needs for this position is another marketer. Time will tell if this is actually the case or if the new coordinator can help the County finally live up to the hype in that regional marketing video at the airport, the one on the monitors by the TRAMS, which say that Pittsburgh is already a "green leader."

  4. This all reminds me -- I was watching City Council's hearings on federal economic stimulus the other day -- and at some point a member of Council attempted to pin down an administration official (Baxter was present as backup) on what was the highest priority, most promising project application being pursued among all those that fall under the category of Green Stuff.

    Assertively, the number one answer out of about three or four on our menu was fixing up the City - County Building! Good news in my opinion.

    I wonder -- since it's more or less a County responsibility -- is the Port Authority making requests for stimulus? In addition to outright "green" stuff like retrofitting buses or making biodegradable Bus Stop signs or whatever, anything they do to improve public transportation would entail positive side-effects for our eco-footprint.

  5. I'm sure PAAC is asking for money. But I think the single most important priority for them is to get this damn tunnel finished so they don't have to hear the public complain about it anymore (and this is coming from an ardently pro-NSC guy). So a lot of stimulus money they do get, either directly from the feds or indirectly through the county or state, is probably going toward that hole on Stanwix street.

  6. Since you mentioned public transportation, here is one thing that just popped into my mind. Some bus drivers crank their air conditioning in the summer to the point where the buses are pretty cool. Implement standard temperature guidelines for all buses in the summer so that they are comfortable, but not frigid. That's just one quick way to help the region's carbon footprint while also saving money.

  7. Can you really negotiate city and county salaries? I thought those were set in the budget each year.

  8. PAZ - pro-NSC? You're kidding right?

    Regarding Anon's comments, how about instead of regulating the AC the PAAC run the buses off of compressed natural gas or hybrid electric diesel engines? This would cost more money but it would be a much bigger impact to the region's carbon footprint, not to mention air quality. All it requires is that the PAAC start phasing in new CNG or Hybrid buses whenever it replaces an old one.

  9. It's unfortunate that the County would pay a coordinator with no professional credentials, little working knowledge and zero experience in facilities management, construction or the trades. And they're going to paying her more than the county's existing trades foremen, professional engineers, planners and the lone architect.

    That's unfortunate, and I think Onorato should apologize.

  10. The question to me is if she has "turned over a new leaf" or if Allegheny County just hired a marketer / consultant. A marketer / consultant could be very helpful if she's committed. Some of that job is about marketing to businesses that they should be good even if its not the most profitable thing to do.

  11. n'at,

    Are the things you mentioned important for the job? I don't believe so.

  12. I'm already sick of the word "sustainability" and feel it should be placed in a green certified landfill alongisde "diversity" and a few others.
    We can achieve this actualization by beginning an ongoing dialoge, which would be very empowering, and would advance the cause not only of conciousness raising but of the raising of awareness in general (as well as specific terms).

  13. WTF has a point, sick of the Key words, when real work or success in throwing them around does not result in real "sustainable" changes in actions or of diversifying the power brokers.

  14. Well, just speaking to WTF?'s comment, I'm not ready to jettison "Sustainability" just yet, but I would appreciate it if people were more careful about using the word more precisely. I take the word to mean an activity we can do indefinitely without either causing pollution or depleting a resource. So solar and wind power are almost entirely sustainable, there is only the cost of manufacture and upkeep. Electric cars are probably more sustainable than hybrids (which still use some gas, if less), but electric cars powered by a solar and/or wind power electric source are much more sustainable than ones powered by a coal fired electric power plant.

    The point is, we are (all) capable of doing things today to reduce our carbon footprint (another piece of jargon having to do with the universe of our energy and resource usage and waste production) and planning on how to further reduce our carbon footprint in the future. And if we elect wise leaders who either know what to do or appoint people who do, the government can act in concert with citizens to further make our community more sustainable. So I’m not tired of the word yet, only the people who use it carelessly.

  15. Anon 5:40 - You're asking the wrong question. There shouldn't be a new position at the County for this. At the city, yes; they're planning and public works departments are poorly staffed, underfunded, qq, etc. However, at the county there are still professionals left (minus one as of yesterday).

    The better question is: Why not put the accreditation in the hands of the existing employees who will manage and/or will ultimately perform the work anyway?

    And your answer would be: Because politicians would rather allow their investors the opportunity to bid for the work as a contractor, than provide county bureaucrats the tools they need to perform the work themselves.

    It'd be more beneficial if the county reimbursed 850 county employees the application fee to become a LEED AP. Imaging 850 existing employees with the LEED accreditation and substantial experience with the operations within their respective departments?

    Of course they'd have to exhaust a personal day to sit for the exam. :D

  16. It wouldn't be a "waste of money" if the Sustainability Coordinator can actually coordinate a few projects that end up saving the county millions of dollars, which would be a nice return on that $85k salary.

  17. I have an idea to save gas. Since pretty much everybody has to go to the grocery store at least weekly, we could save fuel if we let the grocery stores sell wine and beer.

  18. the issue is in the position's powere and the person's actual experience.
    After Baxter's gaff where she "corrected" the Mayor's declaration there will be windmills on Mt. Washington, she became invisible. She does not have input into discussions like Fleet buying or building/facility mainatence or contracting language etc... she has projects like encouraging city employees to use CF bulbs.

    The County position will be an overlay and have inputinto those county-wtide decisions.

    Baxter's professional resume? Another 20 something with some college, but no practice. How much of the Administration have less than 5 years work history?

    Zappa has a long career and work as Flora's number two. She served on the GBA board for years before and was a part of the Phipps Leeds Project.

    Sustainability and green economy IS about business/fiscal sense marrying with policy.

  19. MH - best idea yet, although, that would only help reduce automobile emissions in a handful of states that still have antiquated liquor laws.

  20. Schultz, everyone else uses 'green' reasons to bolster causes they already support. I don't see why I can't.

    Other states I've lived in have state liquor stores, but those stores only sold hard liquor in the state stores. Of course, liquor companies skirting those laws have produced some abominations, like the 40 proof vodka they sold in some Ohio grocery stores.

  21. "No complaints about the salary from me" he says, then proceeds to complain!

  22. MH - I was being serious. That is far better than anything an $85k a year sustainability czar could come up with.

  23. Maybe someone at the county thought her name was "Zappala" and figured they better give her a fat salary for no good reason.

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  25. So I just heard Jeaneen speak, and she seemend knowledgable about county operations and their options...and very savvy about the political issues around getting municipalities on board but not stepping on toes.

    She said she was just appointed to the oversight board with Alcosan as the county representative to give input on the sewer system Consent Decree renovation issue. I'd love to see you interview Jeaneen on this topic about where the county sees sustainability practices integrated into the redo.

    - Carly