Mayor Cooper names Kendra Abkowitz named sustainability chief

Dr. Kendra Abkowitz

Mayor John Cooper has named Dr. Kendra Abkowitz as his Chief Sustainability and Resilience Officer, effective October 13.

She brings more than 10 years of experience to the role and will implement the mayor’s vision for Nashville’s future livability, including his commitment to renewably sourcing 35% of Metro’s energy by 2025.

Abkowitz will also work closely with Metro Water Services on sustainability projects, including waste and wastewater management, stormwater management and the growth of Nashville’s tree canopy.

“We know America’s cities are on the front lines of preserving and creating green spaces, protecting our limited natural resources and reducing carbon emissions,” Mayor Cooper said. “With her passion for sustainability, resilience and environmental justice, Kendra’s work will be central to ensuring Metro leads by example in creating a more livable Nashville.”

Abkowitz will build on some key achievements to date:

  • Developing a utility-scale solar power array, which places Metro Nashville more than a third of the way toward sourcing its general operations with 100% renewable energy—a first for any local government in the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) service territory, includes:
  • a plan was unanimously approved by Metro Council to install 9,777 solar panels at three Metro Water Services plants;
  • a ‘green building code’ was also unanimously approved by Metro Council that significantly improves energy efficiency;
  • the formation of a 48-volunteer expert Sustainability Advisory Committee;
  • the mayor’s ‘Energy Savings Program,’ led by Metro General Services to reduce energy consumption and costs at nearly 100 Metro facilities citywide;
  • protecting and strengthening Nashville’s tree canopy through Executive Order No. 5 and working with Council members to adopt legislation furthering tree protections.

These initiatives followed the mayor’s 2019 signature of the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy.

“Metro’s rapid growth presents both challenges and opportunities to execute strategies that maximize environmental benefit, economic growth and social outcomes,” Abkowitz said. “I’m excited to work across Metro’s departments and collaboratively with community partners to set the city up to continue thriving well into the future.”

As assistant commissioner and director of policy and sustainable practices (2015-2021) at the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC), Abkowitz worked with communities, businesses, academic institutions and other stakeholders to deal with pressing environmental challenges statewide. She helped design the state’s plan for deploying American Rescue Plan dollars toward water infrastructure investments.

Prior to this new position, Abkowitz was a TDEC senior policy analyst and policy analyst (2012-2015), spearheading early efforts to design a regulatory framework for water reuse in Tennessee. She also led a statewide assessment of extreme weather vulnerabilities at Tennessee’s parks and created an energy consumption reduction plan for state-owned facilities.

Before joining TDEC, Abkowitz was a Sustainability Professional in Vanderbilt University’s Sustainability and Environmental Management Office (2008-2012).

She is an appointee to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s local government advisory committee; a member of the Women in Science and Engineering Affinity Group; a member of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council; a recipient of the Nashville Business Journal’s Top 40 Under 40 recognition and a graduate of LEAD Tennessee.

Abkowitz holds a doctorate in environmental management and policy from Vanderbilt University; a master’s degree in business administration from Middle Tennessee State University; a master’s degree in sociology from the University of Chicago and a bachelor’s degree in sociology and economics from Vanderbilt University.

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