It is an incredible honor for me to step into the role of Executive Director at the Cuyahoga Soil & Water Conservation District. This is a role that aligns perfectly with my passion for the natural environment and sustainability, my background in municipal government, and my love of working with and for people.
To introduce myself, I am a life-long Cuyahoga resident, growing up in Brookpark and attending John Carroll University for my undergraduate degree in Biology. This is where my interest in ecology and natural systems was first sparked, and what ultimately led me to pursue a master’s degree in Environmental Science from Cleveland State University, with a focus on stormwater management in urban environments.
In 2010, I started working for the City of Cleveland Mayor’s Office of Sustainability and was fortunate to work on a wide range of sustainability projects, programs, and policies over my 11+ years there. I was promoted to Director of Sustainability in 2017, where I continued to help advance sustainability and climate action initiatives within Cleveland’s municipal operations and throughout the community.
My favorite projects were those that got me out in the community and allowed me to see the direct impacts of my work. I naturally gravitated towards projects focused on green infrastructure, waste reduction and recycling, and trees and green space, and I am proud to say I helped secure and manage more than $7 million in federal, state, local, and private grants which supported this work.
When the opportunity arose to join CSWCD as Executive Director, I couldn’t pass it up. Having worked with a number of staff at CSWCD over the years, I was very familiar with the great work they do in the community. This role will allow me to tap into my science background, while building on the leadership and strategic planning skills I developed at the City. I am particularly excited about the chance to get out in the field and hopefully get my hands dirty (doing a tree planting or stream cleanup, of course!)
In the few weeks I’ve been here, I am constantly impressed at the volume and diversity of work CSWCD does. From pre- and post-construction stormwater inspections, to school programs and stream restoration projects, there is no shortage of work around here and the CSWCD does an awesome job of staying on top of it all. I’ve commented multiple times on how much we do as a District and how organized the office is.
I absolutely cannot talk about how great CSWCD is without recognizing my amazing predecessor, Jan Rybka. In her 20 years at the District, Jan was able to turn an understaffed and budget-less organization into a stable and sustainable leader in the conservation space. At Jan’s retirement party she mentioned that I will bring a new “energy” to the role. While I’m excited to take the helm, the energy Jan brought to CSWCD is leaving some VERY big shoes to fill.
As I settle into my new role as Executive Director, I am looking forward to getting to know our staff and scope of work better so I can provide support in achieving CSWCD’s mission. I hope to elevate and prioritize equity in the work we do and implement sustainable practices and policies wherever possible. I am also excited to meet with elected officials, community leaders, and service directors in the communities we serve to understand their priorities when it comes to soil and water conservation and make sure we are taking these into account in our work.
I look forward to leading a new chapter at the Cuyahoga Soil and Water Conservation District. I feel truly grateful for the many wonderful people and organizations I have had the opportunity to work with, and am very excited for all of those I have yet to meet.
Happy new year and I wish you a wonderful and prosperous 2022!
Blog author: Kristin Hall, Executive Director