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SLCgreen Thanks Director Vicki Bennett for 20 Years of Service

Vicki Bennett’s remarkable 20-year career with Salt Lake City Corporation reflects the changes in local and national work to protect the environment and act on climate. As director, Vicki has overseen SLCgreen’s work to reduce carbon emissions, improve city-wide waste diversion, support air quality initiatives, ensure that the City is prioritizing community sustainability, and direct equitable policies related to food security and energy. Under Vicki’s direction, Salt Lake City has become an internationally-recognized leader in sustainability.

After 20 years, SLCgreen’s beloved director is retiring. Vicki leaves an outstanding legacy, and she will be deeply missed by her friends and colleagues in the City. Her retirement gives us an opportunity to take a look at Vicki’s many accomplishments, and how our community has been shaped by her dedicated service.

Shaping Sustainability

Vicki became the Environmental Manager for Salt Lake City Corporation in 2001, a role meant to help regulate chemical use and reduce environmental pollution in the city. However, environmental work was quickly shifting towards addressing climate change. Vicki’s role expanded into sustainability, a field that connects equity and economic stability with environmental protection.

Thanks to Vicki, SLCgreen grew into one of the first sustainability departments in the country. As a Environmental Manager, Vicki served on Governor Huntsman’s Blue Ribbon Advisory Council on Climate Change in 2007. During Mayor Ralph Becker’s administration, Vicki was placed in charge of a new Sustainability Division. SLCgreen eventually became its own department under Mayor Jackie Biskupski.

The realities of climate change became more and more apparent over that time. As a result, Vicki’s work shifted from climate mitigation to long-term adaptation and resilience. In the changing landscape of climate action, Vicki has continued to shape a vision of sustainability that supports the most vulnerable in our communities and activates our residents to participate in climate work on all levels.

Photo of Vicki Bennett in front of solar panels with a sign reading #ActOnClimate.
Vicki Bennett urges everyone to #ActOnClimate at the opening of Salt Lake City’s 1 MW solar farm.

Internationally Recognized

Vicki’s steady leadership and stalwart commitment to advocacy has positioned Salt Lake City as an international leader in climate action. Vicki’s legacy is one of collaboration and dedication to connecting with others in order to make positive changes.

When world governments called on countries to commit to emissions reductions in the Kyoto Protocol, Salt Lake City was one of the first cities to join. Examining energy efficiency and tracking carbon emissions was the first step in addressing Salt Lake City’s sustainability goals.

Vicki’s ability to connect with people locally and around the world has helped Salt Lake City focus on critical sustainability initiatives. In Utah, she is a founding member of the award-winning Utah Climate Action Network, a group dedicated to collaborating on climate action in Utah. Vicki also helped launch the Urban Sustainability Directors Network, an organization dedicated to “connecting local government practitioners to accelerate urban sustainability.”

Photo of Vicki Bennett with President Barack Obama.
President Obama and Salt Lake City Sustainability Director Vicki Bennett.

Vicki has also connected Salt Lake City’s work on climate to the national and international level. Alongside Mayor Becker, Vicki served on President Obama’s White House State, Local, and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience. She has traveled around the world to connect with people in other cities and help develop innovative and ambitious approaches to sustainability.  

Salt Lake City Mayors, past and present, discuss Vicki’s legacy with Salt Lake City.

Major SLC Milestones

Vicki’s work at the national and international level ties directly to her work within our local community. With Vicki at the helm, SLCgreen has steadily worked towards reducing carbon emissions, improving air quality, building resiliency, and supporting equitable access to healthy food.

Here are a few of the major milestones from the last 20 years:

  • Salt Lake City embarked on the Sustainable Code Revision Project in 2013, helping align many different city ordinances with sustainability goals, including allowing for backyard beekeeping and chicken coops.
  • As part of the Sustainability Department, the Waste & Recycling division has made recycling and compost diversion a key part of the city’s waste management. Now, residential recycling, business, and multifamily recycling ordinances ensure that valuable resources are put to reuse rather than sent to the landfill.
  • The Idle Free ordinance passed in 2011 to protect our air quality was the first of its kind in Utah.
  • Salt Lake City established the Food Policy Task Force, now the Food Policy Council, in 2009, which continues to help address food access in Salt Lake City.
  • In 2016, a Joint Resolution established Salt Lake City Climate Positive 2040 The resolution was updated in 2019, shifting the goal of reaching community-wide net-100% renewable electricity from 2032 to 2030.
  • Vicki was instrumental in advocating for Salt Lake City’s Public Safety Building to be a net-zero building. Since then, Salt Lake City has added 2 net-zero fire stations.
  • Recently, Vicki helped ensure that HB 411, the Community Renewable Energy Act, passed in the Utah Legislature. This legislation creates a pathway for Utah communities to opt-in to an agreement for community-wide renewable electricity. As a result, Salt Lake City is currently working with other Utah communities to achieve our goal of reaching 100% renewable electricity by 2030.
Watch Vicki Bennett’s 2021 interview with SLCTV, reflecting on her favorite and most impactful moments working on sustainability issues over the past 20 years.

SLCgreen’s Future

SLCgreen will build off of Vicki’s important legacy, advocating for equitable climate solutions and resilient communities. As climate change continues to threaten our health and well-being, SLCgreen also continues to foster the networks Vicki helped cultivate.

Former colleague Renee Zollinger points out that Vicki ardently pursues ideas. If she’s involved, she is able to activate others around ideas. Similarly, Deputy Director Debbie Lyons (and our soon-to-be Department Director), whose desk has been next to Vicki’s for 13 years, says that Vicki’s mentorship and diplomacy have positioned Salt Lake City to continue to lead in sustainability. Vicki has lead by example as a leader who strives to forge meaningful connections with others.

Photo of Vicki at the top of the City & County Building overlooking the down town area.
After 20 years of working for SLC Corp, Vicki finally made it to the top of the City and County Building’s clock tower to take in the views of our incredible capital city.

Salt Lake City is indebted to Vicki’s leadership and dedication to sustainability. In her role, she has served as a catalyst for positive change, acting as a constant advocate for swift and equitable climate action. Everyone at SLCgreen is so grateful for her years of service and friendship.

Thank you, Vicki!

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