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Denise Grabowski is running for the Urban/Regional Planner seat on the 2015 Board of Directors.

Candidate interview

View Denise’s campaign video

Why do you wish to serve on the USGBC Board of Directors?

First and foremost, I have spent many years and countless hours in service to USGBC, at the local and national level, because I passionately believe in the mission. I am a strong believer in getting outside our silos and I believe the planning profession is one of our most natural allies, yet we have much work to do in this area. Much of planning (particularly land use regulation) is rooted in public health policy (public health, safety and welfare). As USGBC continues to more proactively move toward the betterment of human health, we have great opportunities to look not only at how our buildings impact health, but also our communities.

Second, as a member of the Board, I will bring both my experience as a Chapter leader and my understanding of the challenges and opportunities we face across the network to lead us in our continuing evolution. In my current role on the Chapter Steering Committee (CSC), I am the co-leader of the Structure Working Group, working with chapter leaders from across the country to develop recommendations for continuing the strength of our movement through the grassroots efforts of the chapter community while seeking a more sustainable organizational structure.

Finally, after attending sessions I co-facilitated at USGBC’s Mid-Year Meeting, a current Board member shared with me that my “passion, expertise and knowledge would be of critical value to the USGBC Board.” While I am a confident leader in my own right, this reassurance was welcomed in confirming my decision.

What resources could you bring to help further participation by diverse sectors in USGBC?

Professional planners influence and develop policy at all levels, from local to national. Yet sadly, there is a vast unawareness about the green building movement and USGBC among many planners. We are all striving for equitable, sustainable, healthy communities, yet we often talk in different languages. I have, and will continue to, create opportunities increase the awareness of USGBC and our work in the planning community. For example, I organized and moderated a session at the 2012 American Planning Association conference focused on green community certification programs, featuring USGBC’s LEED-ND staff along with representatives from the SITES Initiative and AI’s Sustainable Communities program. I would strive to build alliances with other professional organizations, such as the American Planning Association and the Urban Land Institute.

The planning profession – by its very nature – is perfectly suited to bridge the gap not only between diverse practitioners, but as we move into working more with community leaders and the general public, this is where I thrive. A large majority of my work is based in community involvement and stakeholder engagement. In my work, critical listening skills are essential, as is the understanding that we all speak from our own perspective and opinions are often shaped by the lens through which we view the world around us.

Specify and describe your participation and leadership experience in any civic, environmental, and other organizations, as well as any of your affiliations, membership, and accreditations, that may be pertinent to your leadership at USGBC.

I was recently appointed to the Global EcoDistricts Protocol Advisory Committee, which I am especially excited about in light of USGBC’s partnership with EcoDistricts and increasing work in sustainable communities. Several years ago, I co-founded Designing4Health, an initiative to increase the understanding between the built environment and public health. As USGBC works to increase the knowledge and awareness of human health and the built environment, I believe this is a huge area of opportunity for our organization. USGBC’s commitment to sustainable communities married with this perspective of human health and the built environment must be clearly communicated – in partnership with other organizations – as a critical strategy in our country’s health care crisis.

I am very active in my community and have served in many leadership positions, including Chair of Georgia’s Coastal Advisory Council, which provides input and guidance on Georgia’s coastal management program. More recently, I co-founded Accelerate Savannah, a nonprofit organization working to grow the green job economy in Savannah, with an emphasis on poverty reduction through green job training and development. I am also active in many non-environmental organizations (Georgia Planning Association Board of Directors, Rotary, church leadership, etc.) and seek out unique opportunities for engagement, as I believe that we need to move outside our own silos in order to successfully advance our mission.

I am a certified planner through the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP). As with most other professional accreditations, this requires continuing education and commitment to AICP’s Code of Ethics.

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