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New Village hire will address climate-related changes and conserve natural resources

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The Village of Key Biscayne is hiring its first-ever Chief Resilience and Sustainability Officer (CRSO) to plan proactive responses to climate-related changes and conserve natural resources on the barrier island.

Key Biscayne Village Manager Andrea Agha

The Village of Key Biscayne will not be going under water,” declared Andrea Agha, Village manager. “We will be here for generations to come. Sustainability and resilience are our brands.”

The Village identified the need for a CRSO with science, policy and engineering expertise during the 2019 budget process and kicked off the search for a candidate at the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Leadership Summit held in Key West Dec. 3-5.

Scientific expertise will be important as the CRSO sifts through mountains of data on local impacts of global warming, climate change and other environmental stressors, Agha said. The CRSO will set priorities and create an action plan based on the data and on the work Village staff has already undertaken on issues such as beach erosion.

The Village lost three to four feet of beach due to erosion caused by Hurricane Dorian and the king tide,” Agha said of the Labor Day storm. Among possible solutions, the Village identified participation in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Federal Shoreline Protection Program as a part of Miami-Dade County, and to create a breakwater or artificial reef.

Resilience and Sustainability

A policy background will enable the CRSO to identify funding opportunities at the state and federal level, said the Village manager. It will also help the Village avoid missteps like those the city of Coral Gables experienced when it banned the use of Styrofoam food containers. An appeals court last year ruled that state law preempts such bans by municipalities.

Engineering proficiency will be important to the CRSO’s fieldwork. “We have a stormwater plan, for example, that will be funded through an $18 million revenue bond,” Agha said. “We will need staff in the field supervising the work. It’s a disruptive project and the CRSO will make sure the work gets done. We need boots on the ground.”

The timing of projects will be important, Agha said. “For example, we’ve identified the need to improve our tree canopy. We will need to time this project so it doesn’t interfere with the project to move our electrical and stormwater infrastructure underground.”

The CRSO will direct sustainability and resilience efforts across all Village departments, initially partnering with the Public Works Department on big infrastructure projects. Over time, the CRSO will also collaborate with the Parks, Recreation and Open Space Department, and the Public Safety Department.

The Village included sustainability in the position description, believing that staff can do a lot to reduce its carbon footprint in Village buildings. LED lights, timers on the lights, a smart AC system and reusing fountain water in the toilets are all possibilities, she said.

The CRSO will also need vision. According to the position description, the candidate should achieve “results in building and sustaining a livable and inclusive community; with emphasis on educational excellence, healthy neighborhoods and people, environmental quality, natural resource protection, strategic economic development, growing a green economy, quality jobs, community safety, and arts and culture.”

Chief resilience officer is a relatively new job title. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis hired Dr. Julia Newsheiwat as the state’s first chief resilience officer last August.

The candidate’s start date is as soon as possible,” Agha said. “If it was up to me, it would’ve been yesterday.

For more information on the job requirements, click here