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A Q & A with ODOT’s new Sustainability Program Manager

Posted by on November 25th, 2008 at 12:07 pm

Margi Lifsey is ODOT’s new
Sustainability Program Manager.
(Photo courtesy Margi Lifsey)

The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) has added a new position to their team; a Sustainability Program Manager.

The position will be filled by Portland-resident Marjorie (“Margi”) Lifsey. In a statement about the hire, ODOT Chief of Staff Joan Plank said Lifsey will be responsible for coordinating the agency’s sustainability programs, which “will become an increasingly important area of the agency’s work.”

I know Margi from her work as the environmental coordinator on the Columbia River Crossing project and from seeing her at local bike events (especially cyclocross, which she loves). I think this is another good sign that ODOT is moving toward greater recognition that Oregon needs a more balanced transportation system.

I was pleased to hear Margi was selected to fill this new role and I asked her a few questions to help introduce herself to the community and share more about the position. Here’s the Q & A:

What did you do prior to accepting this position?

“Anyone who knows me also knows that I am committed to sustainability in my personal life, from bike commuting to eating organic, local food. This job is an opportunity to combine my personal beliefs about sustainability with my expertise in law and policy.”

I am a lawyer with a background in environmental science. Before law school I worked for the National Wildlife Federation in Washington D.C. on national wetlands policy. My stint with politics in D.C. led to my enrollment in law school. During law school at Lewis and Clark, I worked for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Oregon Department of Justice in the Natural Resources Division. I learned a lot about government structure and administrative law during those years.

After graduation I worked in the private sector for many years for large law firm Stoel Rives, LLP. I gradually worked my way back into the public sector, working on hazardous waste and water quality issues. Over the past year I’ve been working for ODOT and WSDOT on the Columbia River Crossing project on environmental regulation and agency coordination. As part of that job, I lead a pioneering effort to write one of the nation’s first analysis of greenhouse in a NEPA document in the CRC Environmental Impact Statement.

Anyone who knows me also knows that I am committed to sustainability in my personal life, from bike commuting to eating organic, local food. This job is an opportunity to combine my personal beliefs about sustainability with my expertise in law and policy.

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Why did ODOT create the position?

ODOT manages a large, statewide network of transportation systems and facilities. The purpose of this position is to integrate sustainability throughout the network, both as an internal component (i.e., agency operations) and as an external component (i.e., the transportation system). While there is no standard definition of sustainability in transportation, it is generally defined as a system that is economically efficient, reduces impact to the environment and improves social well-being.

ODOT actually created this position 3 years ago, so it started out as a Sustainability Coordinator position and the initial focus was internal ODOT operations. As sustainability became of increasing importance, the position developed into a Program Manager Position with additional responsibilities. The Sustainability Program Director position is now in the Director’s office, both structurally and physically. Sustainability is a top priority of ODOT.

The ODOT Director Garrett is an ex-officio member of the Global Warming Commission, a member of the Land Use and Transportation subcommittee of GWC, and a member of the Oregon Sustainability Board. In this position I will work with committee members and other state agencies to further the governor’s effort to become a sustainable, climate-friendly state.

What are your goals for this new role?

I want to make a connection between sustainability, efficiency and economic vitality. Many people assume that sustainability measures come with a high price tag, but often such measures are efficient and therefore also economically advantageous.

Collaboration with other state agencies and stakeholders is going to be a key part of my learning process and ultimately a key to ODOT success in sustainability. When it comes to reducing statewide carbon emissions, each sector is interrelated and interdependent.

It is important to me to create an atmosphere of transparency and openness in the Sustainability Program. I am very open to exploring new ideas and technology that could make the transportation system sustainable.

Are their any specific projects you’ll be working on that might have a bike-related component?

You’ll have to check back with me in 6 months from now to see what specific projects that I am working on. I do know that ODOT is committed to creating a sustainable transportation system. In so far as biking programs are part of that greater goal, then I will be working on those issues.

Unfortunately cyclocross racing isn’t part of the job description (now that would be the ultimate dream job!)

Good luck with the new position Margi, and keep us posted on your projects.

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Comments
  • Chris November 25, 2008 at 12:23 pm

    Go Margi!

    ODOT and all of us Oregonians are lucky to have you on board!

    Good luck.

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  • BURR November 25, 2008 at 12:47 pm

    Are you sure they’re not just co-opting the opposition?

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  • Lindsay November 25, 2008 at 12:57 pm

    Margi is an excellent choice…hopefully all of her good deeds with ODOT will make her so busy that it’ll be easier to keep up with her on a cross course….

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  • a.O November 25, 2008 at 1:09 pm

    Another Stoel Rives lawyer leading the way… Good luck, Marji!

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  • a.O November 25, 2008 at 1:10 pm

    Oops, another Stoel Rives lawyer who doesn’t proofread!

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  • A-dub November 25, 2008 at 1:50 pm

    a.O., you did proofread…just a little too late :)

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  • Tom November 25, 2008 at 6:58 pm

    Congratulations Margi! I look forward to hearing more about the work you will be doing with ODOT and can’t think of a better person for the job. It’s nice to know we’ve got a thoughtful voice where it counts.

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  • Tori November 25, 2008 at 9:59 pm

    Congrats, Margi! I’ll see you out in the mud next season. In the meantime, keep ODOT in line.

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  • Z-Dub November 25, 2008 at 10:01 pm

    Congratulations to Margi.

    The near-term test for how meaningful ODOT leadership intends for this position to be is the Columbia River Crossing.

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  • PoPo November 25, 2008 at 10:26 pm

    That’s all fine and dandy, but have you seen her layout D on the Ultimate field? Sick.

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  • K-Man November 25, 2008 at 10:29 pm

    And she races. Whoot!

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  • broMan November 26, 2008 at 7:32 am

    Congrats Margi!

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  • Joe November 26, 2008 at 8:42 am

    hottie? umm yes! hehe sorry :)
    congrats~

    Joe

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  • Froneil December 2, 2008 at 12:10 pm

    Way to go Margi! Congrats on the new position and for helping to make Oregon an even better place to live and bike.

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  • [...] Alum Marjorie Lifsey has been named the Sustainability Program Manager for the Oregon Department of Transportation. Lifsey, a lawyer with a background in environmental science, worked for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Oregon Department of Justice in the National Resources Division before attending law school. Among many in the environmental policy arena, Lifsey’s dedication to sustainability and her expertise in law make her the perfect candidate for this position. As the Sustainability Program Manager, Lifsey will “work with committee members and other state agencies to further the governor’s effort to become a sustainable, climate-friendly state.” To read more from BikePortland’s Q&A session with Lifsey, click here. [...]

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