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October 2, 2018

Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC) Director of Energy & Air Quality Christina O’Keeffe will soon transition from MORPC to become the executive director of the Ohio Air Quality Development Authority (OAQDA). OAQDA protects the air we breathe by helping Ohio businesses, utilities, and public institutions to finance air quality facilities that save money and improve air quality.

Christina O’Keeffe

 

O’Keeffe will be no stranger to the work in her new position. During her time at MORPC, she served as the energy and air quality expert for local governments and regional partners to achieve their economic development, community revitalization and sustainability goals. She and her team have delivered more than $6 million annually in support of air quality, affordable and efficient housing, community development, and energy planning within the 15-county Central Ohio region.

“Christina is an incredible choice to lead OAQDA during an intense period of change in energy and growing focus on air quality. Although we’ll miss her very much at MORPC, I’m so glad that she will be a leading voice at the state and national level on energy, air quality, and sustainability programs and policies that are so important to MORPC’s team members and local governments throughout Central Ohio.”
MORPC Executive Director William Murdock

Before Christina’s final day at MORPC on Oct. 12, we asked her to share some of her thoughts:

Q: What are the biggest challenges Central Ohio faces over the next few years in regard to energy and air quality?

A: The biggest hurdle will be the pace of change. It’s an exciting time to be involved as we’re seeing change everywhere; it seems no industry or sector is immune. The key challenge for many of us is how to best position ourselves and our organizations to take advantage of this growth and minimize the risks. Many traditional industries, such as energy and transportation, are undergoing significant transformation within the next few years from a way of doing business that hasn’t really changed over the past several decades. The drivers stem from emerging technologies along with evolving customer behavior and their higher expectations in delivering better quality of service. Just a few years ago, there was very little talk about electrifying fleets, different mobility options, smart technologies or community-based clean energy generation – all of which improve air quality. Now, it’s how fast can we keep up?!

Q: Which of your accomplishments at MORPC makes you most proud?

A: In my five years at MORPC, I was fortunate to work in such a collaborative and innovative environment, which is enabled by our member local governments and led by William Murdock.

As a result, it became quickly apparent the strong interest and need for MORPC to include energy planning expertise as part of its core services to support the goals in its transportation and regional plans of reducing energy consumption across our communities. I’m excited that I could create and develop the energy planning service integrated with our air quality program and connect it with key areas such as sustainability, data, policy and transportation. Currently, MORPC is among only a few U.S. metropolitan planning organizations to have this expertise.

Most notably, I am most proud of the achievements by our direct services programs to serve residential customers. MORPC has an amazing team of inspectors, customer service specialists, program administers, and contractors. I am thoroughly impressed by their talent, dedication and passion to serve those most in need. Plus, in our five years together, the team has embraced new approaches that improve processes along with new technology that enhances delivery, which is allowing MORPC to serve more and more residents with home repairs and weatherization.  

Q: What makes you most excited for your new position at the Ohio Air Quality Development Authority?

A:  OAQDA provides critical leadership that unites private and public partners for the focus on preserving the state’s most precious resource – the air we breathe.

The authority has a strong history of investment in establishing air quality facilities at small and large businesses, utilities, and public institutions that provides both environmental and economic benefits. The breadth in the portfolio of projects is impressive – from family-owned auto body shops that are installing more efficient paint booths aimed at reducing hazardous pollutants to manufacturing facilities, hospitals and public institutions that are using energy efficiency measures focused on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Continuing this legacy is important as well as exploring new opportunities where the authority’s technical assistance and financing can be maximized. Considering the transformation taking place within many industries, the authority may be a helpful partner in financing the capital necessary to develop new infrastructure, programs and projects across Ohio. I am excited to learn more and explore these opportunities under the leadership of a very talented board governing the authority.

Q: What will you miss most about MORPC?

A: The people. MORPC is a special place to work driven by the passion of the staff and its member communities. Plus, I’ve really appreciated the convening power at MORPC to bring together and unite differing perspectives in a shared vision for the region. We certainly don’t see that everywhere.

Naturally, I will miss my energy & air quality team the most! I’ve learned a lot from each of them and share a deep respect for the critical role each plays in serving our customers. They have made me a better leader. Looking ahead, I can’t wait to watch and cheer on their continued success!

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