SALT LAKE CITY -- Vicki Bennett has been with Salt Lake City for 14 years, and she said this city in particular has been on the forefront of sustainability.
The word sustainability can mean different things to different people, but for Bennett and Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker's administration, it comes down a pretty basic concept.
She said: “How do we ensure we keep Salt Lake City the best we can, for now and for our children? We want people to want to continue to want to live here, we want a healthy environment."
During Becker’s nearly two terms, Bennett has helped lead the mayor's sustainability team by developing solar energy projects, reducing carbon emissions and encouraging local business owners to meet air quality and energy targets by evaluating their building's energy use, setting energy-saving goals, and conducting energy-saving improvement projects.
“And what's so exciting is that Salt Lake's sustainability program, if you talk to our peers, is considered one of the top 10 in the nation, for a small city,” Bennett said.
Those efforts have also been noticed by leaders in Washington D.C.
Mayor Becker and President Barack Obama share a similar vision regarding sustainability, and it has helped them forge a strong, working relationship. Bennett said that in turn helps the effort back in Salt Lake City.
"He's been able to get us a voice in the White House,” she said. “Because of that, we've been able to get funding for grants that a lot of cities aren't even invited to apply for."
Bennett knows there will soon be a new mayor but said she believes Salt Lake City’s advances in walkable housing, transportation, solar power and recycling are here to stay.
"We always have to be improving our environment, we always have to be ensuring we have healthy air to breathe, that we have water quality and water quantity for our residents,” she said.
Bennett was able to briefly meet President Obama Thursday night during his visit to Utah, and she said the honor gave everyone on their staff a renewed sense of determination to move forward with sustainability efforts.