The White House honored nine individuals on April 25 as Champions of Change for Greening our Cities and Towns as part of President Obama's "Winning the Future" initiative (whitehouse.gov/champions). These leaders have demonstrated a commitment to advancing innovative approaches to promote energy efficiency, revitalize outdoor spaces and waterways and adopt transportation solutions that conserve natural resources, improve walkability and improve other quality of life aspects of towns and cities.
NLC was pleased to participate in the event honoring the champions, along with local leaders from the cities of Gaithersburg and Annapolis, Md., to hear the inspiring stories and engage in a dialogue with the champions and the administration.
"Healthy, sustainable communities support a strong economy and better quality of life for Americans," said Nancy Sutley, chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. "The leaders we've selected as Champions of Change are finding creative ways to make their communities healthier places to live, work and play and demonstrating how a healthy environment and strong economy go hand in hand."
The champions that were recognized represent the cities of Tallahassee, Fla., Pittsburgh, Pa., Galveston, Texas, Denver, Williamson, W.Va., Flint, Mich., Jonestown, Pa., Atlanta, and Charlotte, N.C.
During a panel discussion with some of the champions, Shelley Poticha, director for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities, made the observation that the leadership and comprehensive approaches demonstrated at the local level in many ways embody and help inform what federal agencies are striving to achieve.
Efforts that emerge from or seek to link together a range of stakeholders--including local governments, schools, non-profits, workforce training programs, philanthropic communities, private sector and community members--are proving successful in communities across the country.
Among the reoccurring themes that emerged throughout all nine of the champions' stories were the importance of involving youth and building sustainability within educational programs, the value of strong political leadership at the local level and the role of partnerships.
Champions spoke passionately about the work happening throughout their communities and among the various organizations and …