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Sustainability Director Jasmin Moore's career path has roots in public health

Thursday, June 13, 2019 - 12:43pm

Jasmin Moore describes sustainability as “living today like you really believe that there’s going to be a tomorrow.” The definition was developed by a youth group she worked with in Central Arkansas. She likes it because it’s relatable.

“It’s easy for kids to digest and understand that if they throw their can on the ground, it probably will be there tomorrow and the next day and 10 years from now, unless somebody picks it up and places it in the recycling bin,” she said.

Moore began working for Douglas County and the City of Lawrence as Sustainability Director about a year and a half ago. She reports to the Douglas County Administrator and the Assistant City Manager, oversees an annual budget of about $240,000, and supervises Helen Schnoes, who is the Sustainability and Food System Planner. Sustainability Director Jasmin Moore

“I serve as a sustainability consultant to departments in the city and county and to the community. When there is a project, policy or program, I can provide a broader perspective in thinking about the economic impact, the environmental impact and the human impact,” she said.

Moore originally thought she wanted to be a zookeeper. However, for a variety of reasons, she shifted her focus from studying animal behavior to human behavior, especially after hearing a college class presentation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The presentation was about a CDC study that found a decrease in use of automobiles during the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta led to improved air quality and a large decrease in childhood emergency room visits and hospitalizations in Atlanta. “I heard that and I asked, ‘Where is that job?’” That’s when she began researching and learning about public health, urban planning, transportation planning and community planning.

“My path to planning came from a public health lens,” she said.

While a student at the University of Kansas, Moore took a practicum course at Big Brothers Big Sisters Douglas County, which pairs youth with adult mentors. She said there was a mismatch between the people they were serving and the people who were volunteering, so her project was to increase the diversity of volunteers with a focus on increasing males of color.

Additionally, Moore spent one year as an AmeriCorps volunteer in Denver. She was trying to figure out if she wanted to work in direct health intervention – one on one – or in this new path of systems change. As an AmeriCorps member, she did direct health education with elementary school students. “What I discovered was that it was really frustrating because I couldn’t tell if I was making a difference or not.”

That’s when she decided to dig into the relationship between the built environment and health and pursue a career in that direction.

Moore earned a master’s degree in Community and Regional Planning at the University of Texas-Austin after receiving a bachelor’s degree in Applied Behavioral Sciences from KU.

For about a year, Moore worked for the City of San Antonio as a planner. She would review plans and make suggestions for code changes that would encourage a healthier design. For example, she would suggest including sidewalks in new developments because they encourage a safe way for people of all ages and abilities to be active.

Moore then moved to Little Rock, Arkansas, where she worked for the Metropolitan Planning Organization. While there, she worked on the development of a health and transportation chapter in the long-range transportation plan. “I spent a lot of time thinking about planning and how to prevent isolation of aging populations - making sure they are able to stay connected to the community if they don’t have a car.”

During her time in Little Rock, sustainability was becoming a more common word and cities and counties were trying to figure out if they should be doing something, and if so, in what role. Moore was interested in the work and agreed to work with cities in Central Arkansas to help define sustainability. That’s when she coordinated a youth-led process to identify some priority areas for sustainability, which they were able to leverage into federal grant funds for demonstration projects. “It was really exciting to be part of the ground floor of that planning and implementation,” she said.

Moore then moved back to the Kansas City area to be closer to family. She worked for Johnson County for five years as the Sustainability Program Manager and then joined Lawrence-Douglas County. “Douglas County has a reputation for really forward-thinking approaches, especially in food system planning,” she said. “My predecessor Eileen Horn really put Lawrence and Douglas County on the map when it came to sustainability.”

One of the things Douglas County did was establish a revolving sustainability fund with some seed money from a federal grant. The county invested in energy efficiency and then the savings - that occurred because of the energy-saving measures - were put back into the fund so that it could sustain beyond the initial investment.

During the past year, Moore is really proud that Douglas County was able to broker an agreement with Westar to get 60 percent of its energy sourced from wind starting in 2020 for facilities. “That is super exciting and a big win,” she said.

Moore also was instrumental in the county receiving a Kansas Leadership Center grant. The grant has helped to build stronger relationships among staff and county councils. The county also was able to send individuals to leadership training.

Upcoming projects that she’s excited about include: opens space planning, coordinating a community conversation about climate change, and organizing a fall food symposium. Moore also serves on the health equity work group for the Douglas County Community Health Plan.

“The systems viewpoint is really important to me, so the ability to work in all of these systems – county, city, health department, university and community – on large issues is what I like most about my job,” she said. “I’m really honored to be at the table for those discussions and to be able to identify some leverage for change.”

When she’s not working, Moore enjoys spending time with her family, which includes her partner Todd and two sons, ages 5 and 8. She started quilting about two years ago and has joined a Modern Quilt Guild.

Media Contact

Karrey Britt, Communications Specialist