Chesterfield County: A Journey in Environmental Management

Article excerpt

Benefits of Environmental Management: As an organization, ICMA routinely recognizes best practices in local government. An environmental management system (EMS) is basically a management tool that provides local governments with a flexible and proven framework for setting environmental goals and reducing environmental impacts through the use of best practices, operational controls, and measurable plans for achieving goals. In certain cases, an EMS can also help reduce insurance premiums and improve bond ratings.

These systems are typically implemented at regulated local government facilities with potential environmental impacts, such as water utilities, landfills, fleet maintenance facilities, and public works yards. A growing number of local governments around the country have adopted an EMS to improve their environmental performance and compliance, reduce costs, improve community relations, and build greater confidence by managers on environmental issues.

Communities that have implemented an EMS, including Chesterfield County, Virginia, are setting a high standard in environmental management and stewardship. I encourage you to become knowledgeable about these initiatives. I hope that this case study can help illustrate the benefits of EMS and will help you lead efforts to develop an environmental management system for your organization.

--Robert O'Neill, Jr., Executive Director, ICMA, Washington, D.C.

"What does EMS stand for?" In the past, when a citizen asked that question, the typical response was "emergency management systems" or "emergency medical services." Now, however, public entities are becoming aware of the environmental challenges facing local government and the importance of protecting the environment. Consequently, there is a new EMS in town--the environmental management system.

An EMS is a set of management procedures and processes that enables an organization to analyze, control, and reduce the environmental impacts of its activities, products, and services. An EMS, which is based on the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 14001, helps organizations in the public and private sectors operate with greater efficiency and control in the environmental arena.

Basic elements of EMS include reviewing an organization's goals; analyzing environmental impacts and legal requirements; establishing objectives, targets, and action plans; monitoring and measuring progress in achieving objectives; ensuring employees' environmental awareness and competence; conducting compliance auditing; and reviewing the progress of the EMS with the management team. Chesterfield County, Virginia, has embarked on this important endeavor of EMS development to ensure the protection of the county's environment.


Located in the heart of central Virginia, south of the state capital of Richmond, Chesterfield County is home to more than 300,000 residents and has garnered a reputation for being a first-choice community in which to live, work, play, and raise a family. Chesterfield is a full-service jurisdiction, and, as is common in Virginia, there are no municipalities within the county's boundaries.

Chesterfield County is governed by a five-member board of supervisors. Each member is elected to a four-year term and represents one of the county's five magisterial districts. Lane Ramsey, who was appointed as the county administrator in 1987, oversees the day-to-day operations of the county Ramsey was selected by the American Society for Public Administration as a winner of its 1997 National Public Service Award. His leadership has led Chesterfield County to an AAA bond rating and onto the cutting edge of environmental management.

County government operations consist of 49 departments and more than 4,000 employees. Some of these operations are parks and recreation, waste and resource recovery, fleet management, and an airport. …