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Major Ohio County Hires Sustainability Leader: 3 Things to Know About Jenita McGowan

April 29, 2024 by Joe Panettieri

Cuyahoga County of Ohio has hired Jenita McGowan (pictured above) as deputy chief of staff for climate and sustainability. Read between the lines, and she's essentially Cuyahoga's chief sustainability officer, reporting to County Executive Chris Ronayne.

Here are three things to know about the county's sustainability strategy, McGowan's experience, and the potential implications for technology partners that serve state and local governments.

1. County Location, Population and Sustainability Focus: Cuyahoga County, located in northeastern Ohio, includes the city of Cleveland. The county's population was roughly 1.23 million people as of 2023, according to U.S. Census estimates.

Cuyahoga County's sustainability strategy has multiple components. For instance, the county in 2021 launched Cuyahoga Green Energy -- a new energy utility focused entirely on renewable energy and resiliency. The first district microgrids mainly serve commercial and industrial customers. Future expansions will serve schools, grocery stores, fire departments and other community facilities, the county said. We don't know how much clean energy the microgrid currently produces, nor do we know how much carbon reduction it typically offers annually.

Also of note: A Cuyahoga County Solar Co-Op includes county residents, small business owners and employees who are interested in sustainable renewable energy. Members from more than 30 communities share their experience and promote the use of solar and other practices. Through group installation, co-op members have saved up to 20% on the cost of their system, plus existing federal tax credits, the county says. But here again, we don't know how much clean energy the co-op produces nor do we know how much carbon reduction it typically offers annually.

2. Jenita McGowan's Role, Responsibilities and Experience: As deputy chief of staff for climate and sustainability, McGowan will lead Cuyahoga County’s efforts to reduce its carbon footprint and advance green infrastructure. Key focus areas include the Fresh Water Institute, a water initiative focused on education and research, environmental stewardship, advocacy and access, and economic development on the Great Lakes. McGowan will also engage residents and businesses in sustainable practices. This position is jointly funded by the Cleveland Foundation and The George Gund Foundation, the county noted.

McGowan has over 15 years of sustainability experience in the corporate, nonprofit, and public sectors, the county noted. Most recently, she was director of global sustainability engagement and reporting at power management company Eaton. Earlier, she was chief of sustainability for the city of Cleveland.

3. Key Perspectives: In a prepared statement, Cuyahoga County Executive Chris Ronayne said: “We are thrilled to welcome Jenita McGowan into this top-level position within our administration. Climate resilience and sustainability initiatives are critical to our region, our world and to the county team. As Deputy Chief of Staff, McGowan will help to guide our community towards programs and initiatives that address the urgent challenges of climate change and promote the responsible stewardship of our natural resources.”

Chris Ronayne
Chris Ronayne, Cuyahoga County Executive

Ronayne added: “Climate change knows no borders, and its effects are worldwide. Cuyahoga County is committed to addressing this global challenge by prioritizing sustainability initiatives. With the hiring of Jenita McGowan, we are investing in the future of our county and the well-being of our residents. Her leadership will guide us to a more sustainable future for generations to come.”

Why Technology Partners Should Care

By 2027, 25% of Global 2000 companies will have assigned a chief sustainability officer (CSO) responsible for meeting their organization’s ESG goals and making ESG-related IT purchasing decisions, according to IDC.

It's a safe bet that figure will be even higher for state and local governments -- many of which are embracing renewable energy and sustainability strategies. For instance, the Sustainable States Network spans 2,524 U.S. municipalities that put sustainability on their policy agendas and collectively take action to improve the environment, quality of life, and local economies.

Technology partners need to extend their sales, marketing, engagement and support strategies to successfully fulfill those municipality needs, Sustainable Tech Partner believes.

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