Sustainability Director comes onboard

By Betsy Levinson -

Eric Simms didn’t have much time to talk last week. The town’s new Sustainability Director was on his way to meet Assistant Fire Chief Walter Latta to learn about the updated Hazard Mitigation Plan that was released recently.

Simms, a Wayland resident, was hired earlier this month and joins the Town Manager’s team on the second floor of the Town House. That way, he can best incorporate the town’s climate and environmental goals across the various departments: planning, public works, natural resources, emergency services and others.

That meshes well with Simms’ previous post as Educational Programs Manager at Harvard University’s Center for the Environment, where he managed undergraduate and graduate students from a wide array of disciplines.

“I gained a broader perspective about the intersection of public health, climate change and sustainability,” he said.

He defines the broad term sustainability as the responsible use of resources; “practical programs and policies that advocate for the effective and responsible use of our resources that lead to greater wellbeing.”

His formal training was in the sciences, with posts at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the Rutgers University Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences.

In Wayland, he is a member of the Energy and Climate Committee and the River Stewardship Council representative for SUASCO (Sudbury, Assabet and Concord rivers) where he gained knowledge of sustainability at the municipal level.

“I was excited by the opportunity in Concord,” he said. “It has a long and strong history of progress and action. The town has built a strong foundation.”

Simms is on a listening tour of sorts, having started so recently.

“I’m still trying to get my feet under me,” he said, “and learn about everything that is already in the planning stages.”

He is hearing about various departmental priorities, “doing a lot of reading and reaching out to departments.”

The updated Hazard Mitigation Plan, reworked from the 2017 plan, covers “how to prepare for floods, significant temperature changes and storms,” he said, all of which are becoming more threatening.

He added that communicating with surrounding towns around environmental hazards makes sense too, since hazards do not stop at the town line.

Reducing greenhouse gases to meet the town’s climate goals is “challenging, but there’s a lot of support.” And the municipal light plant efforts at electrifying residences and town buildings is worth pursuing, he said.

“There is a general awareness, not just in Massachusetts but across the U.S.” he said, of the impact of climate change, and Simms sees not only the threat but an opportunity too.

Town Manager Kerry LaFleur praised Simms. “I am very pleased to welcome Eric Simms to the Town of Concord as Director of Sustainability,” announced Lafleur. “Eric brings a wealth of experience to the position, and having devoted his career to advancing environmental stewardship, literacy, and sustainability across a broad spectrum of audiences, I’m confident that he will make a positive impact in Concord.”