Detroit has hired a new sustainability director who will guide the City’s efforts to strengthen the economic, social and environmental well-being of the City’s residents, neighborhoods and businesses.
Joel Howrani Heeres begins his new role on Monday, May 22. In this role, he will lead a new sustainability office, which will work to strengthen coordination among Detroit’s municipal departments; build partnerships with neighborhoods, businesses and philanthropic and non-governmental organizations; secure new funding for the city, achieve operational savings for the City.
In Detroit, sustainability issues have a direct effect on residents’ daily lives, from public transit options — including expansion of bus service, the new QLine streetcar and the MoGo Bike Share program launching next week — to energy costs, air quality, access to healthy and affordable food, open space, neighborhood planning and storm water management.
“Sustainability is an important part of my administration because it has a direct impact on our health, environment, neighborhoods and economic growth, and it can help us more efficiently deliver City services,” said Mayor Mike Duggan. “These are things that are important to all Detroiters. I’m pleased to have someone of Joel’s caliber leading the City’s efforts.”
Detroit has achieved several sustainability-related milestones in recent years, including the launch of the QLine streetcar, conversion of the city’s 59,000 streetlights to LEDs, adoption of green demolition practices for vacant home demolitions, securing $9 million in Federal funding to enhance the city’s resiliency, opening a 10-acre solar array at O’Shea Park, and $11.7 million in investments to renovate 40 city parks and playgrounds. Howarani Heeres’ appointment and the creation of a sustainability office will support and accelerate these types of projects.
More than 150 cities nationwide have established sustainability offices, and Howrani Heeres will build on the experience of those cities to bring best practices to Detroit.
Howrani Heeres was chosen from among a field of more than 200 applicants from across the country. A Detroit resident for 13 years, he has served in multiple roles in municipal government, non-profit organizations and the corporate sector, including his most recent role leading the City of Detroit’s efforts to improve its enterprise data governance and expand public access to City information as Director of Open Data and Analysis in the City’s Department of Innovation and Technology.
He previously led efforts at DTE Energy to use metrics and continuous improvement efforts to better manage the utility’s operations. As a staff member at EcoWorks Detroit, he lead sustainability and climate action planning in 11 southeast Michigan communities and played a key role in the development of the Detroit Environmental Agenda in 2013. He also was Managing Director of the Southeast Michigan Regional Energy Office, which provides technical assistance to dozens of local governments on issues of sustainability, including building energy efficiency audits.
“We’re excited to have Joel join our team and look forward to him developing sustainability programs and policies that will tangibly improve the lives of all those who live and work in our City,” said David Manardo, group executive for operations.
Howrani Heeres received a master’s degree in urban planning and a bachelor’s degree in economics and anthropology from the University of Michigan.