BRATTLEBORO — Months after former Town Energy Coordinator Paul Cameron resigned from the position and returned to his home state of North Carolina, the Selectboard unanimously passed a resolution on May 2 recognizing him for his efforts. The Board also appointed a new Energy Coordinator.
Cameron, who served the town for 14 years, left the position in September 2016.
In 2003, Cameron co-founded the nonprofit Brattleboro Climate Protection and shortly thereafter began working with the town to address the energy efficiency and carbon footprint of municipal works and private residences.
One of his projects was to help form the Brattleboro Energy Committee in 2009. The committee's mission, according to the town website, “is to assist Brattleboro residents, businesses, and Town government in reducing energy consumption and costs through conservation, increased energy efficiency, and conversion to renewable energy sources.”
During his tenure, Cameron became a well-known leader locally and regionally for his work in energy conservation and efficiency, and in renewable energy. He organized workshops and tours, getting people on board with new technologies such as solar power, heat pumps, and pellet boilers.
But one could argue that Cameron's most obvious and lasting influence on Brattleboro only comes out at night.
About six years ago, Cameron and the Energy Committee teamed up with the Department of Public Works and Green Mountain Power to begin converting all of Brattleboro's streetlights and other exterior lights to light-emitting diode fixtures.
The committee also recommended turning some lights off, after an exhaustive study in which committee members surveyed the town's streets on foot to analyze its lighting needs.
The LEDs use far less electricity and have a longer lifespan than incandescent fixtures. By the fall of 2013 the project was complete. Since then, the conversion has saved the town more than $100,000 per year.
It also brought the stars back to town.
The new fixtures' design includes a cutoff feature that concentrates light downward, onto the street - the old fixtures created light pollution that rendered much of the heavens invisible. Thanks to the new streetlamps, more of the night sky is now visible.
Other major projects Cameron led included an upgrade to the town's lighting, boilers, and furnaces, which saved Brattleboro approximately $240,000, and a detailed energy audit of all town buildings. The resulting energy-saving measures from the audit will save the town more than $2 million.
During this year's Representative Town Meeting, Richard Evers proposed the Selectboard officially thank Cameron for his work and wish him well in his future endeavors. The motion passed unanimously.
Evers and Energy Committee Chair Michael Bosworth drafted the document, “Resolution in Grateful Recognition of Paul Cameron.” Town Manager Peter B. Elwell added some slight revisions and presented it to the Board at the May 2 meeting for their consideration.
'Our grateful community'
In addition to the achievements detailed in this article, the resolution also states, “Now, therefore, the Brattleboro Selectboard hereby honors Paul Cameron with this citation to thank him on behalf of our grateful community and to wish him the best of all possible futures.”
Selectboard member Tim Wessel read the full resolution at the Board meeting. Afterward, applause broke out in the room.
“Climate change is the paramount issue of our time,” Evers said. “Paul put his shoulder to the wheel."
“I can't wait to get this approved and get this off to Paul. He has no idea this will happen!” said Evers, who added, “if this helps Paul continue his work, we're all better off."
Meanwhile, the town has been without an energy coordinator.
According to the Town Charter, the energy coordinator works with the energy committee on conservation, energy efficiency, renewable energy, and “other energy-related matters.” Other tasks may include research, gathering data, writing grants, outreach, marketing, and running meetings.
On May 1, the Energy Committee interviewed three candidates for the position - Thomas Franks, Phoebe Gooding, and Kio Okawa. Before the Selectboard had a chance to review the committee's recommendations, Franks withdrew his name for consideration.
At the May 2 Board meeting, Bosworth said committee members “came to the conclusion we could work with any of them” for different reasons, but officially recommended Gooding. The committee noted that among Gooding's skills are: outreach, marketing, grant-writing, and academic and practical experience in sustainability issues.
The Selectboard appointed Gooding as energy coordinator. Gooding's term will last for one year.
Selectboard member John Allen said he encourages Okawa to work with the energy committee.