Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Q&A | Thom Snelling,

Tampa 'green officer'

Tampa's 'green officer' looks out for city, planet

Thom Snelling extols the personal benefits of going green: “Don’t you want to save on your electric and gas bill? Why would you not want to do that?”


Thom Snelling extols the personal benefits of going green: “Don’t you want to save on your electric and gas bill? Why would you not want to do that?”

DOWNTOWN — Thom Snelling's landscape is looking a little different these days. His Jackson Street office desk is stacked with dog-eared magazines and photocopied articles, mostly dealing with gardening, recycling and global warming. A Kermit the Frog greeting card on his shelf reads, "It's not easy being green ..."

Just a few months after Mayor Pam Iorio named Snelling Tampa's first "green officer," he's up to his eyeballs in it.

But the title seems to fit. He's also the city's director for growth management and development services and, as the guy who overlooks every building project that affects city soil, Snelling has the most power to regulate how those developments affect the environment. Coincidentally, he has quite a green thumb, too.

City Times talked with Snelling last week about Tampa's efforts to be more environmentally conscious and about ways everyday people can help.

Tampa's first green officer: Why you?

My general (educational) background is in urban anthropology and urban studies, where you take a very holistic approach to urban growth. When you talk about being more green, there are building aspects to it, there are conservation aspects, there are energy efficiency aspects to it ... My department has the ability to look at all these things.

Everything my department does, from tree preservation to rezoning to historic preservation, has the ability to impact the environment. Because of that, I have been continually involved in those (environmental) decisions and the mayor got to see who I was. She was comfortable with me as her choice for green officer.

What is the city doing to be environment-friendly that the public may not be aware of?

It's huge in the water department, because we've been talking about water for decades — everything from low-flow toilets to water restrictions to distributing low water-flow showerheads.

If you look up at the city streetlights, you might see little dots of light instead of the one bright light, and that LED lighting uses 85 percent less energy than standard lights. Same with the walk/don't walk flashing lights on street corners.

The Police Department's new District 3 building was built with recycled materials. There are light sensors in the offices and conference rooms that turn the lights off when people are out of the room for a certain amount of time. It has low-flow fixtures, water-efficient fountains and toilets. It was built on a brownfield site, which they purposely picked and cleaned up.

What should Tampa citizens do to support the city's efforts?

Anything you can do to support your local goods and services, you're reducing wear and tear on the planet by keeping trucks off the road and carbon out of the air. If you can get an organic apple from a market in Ruskin, it's better than buying an apple from Washington at the store.

Even if you don't believe the science and don't believe in global warming and melting ice caps and all that, I don't care. Don't you want to save on your electric and gas bill? Why would you not want to do that?

What do you do?

I yell at my kids to turn the lights off. (Laughs)

I carpool. My wife and I drive to work together (from Brandon) or use the bus. I had a new high-efficiency air-conditioning unit put in, and we replaced our carpet with tile and wood floors, which keep the house cooler.

I plant edible food and aloe at the house. I've actually been a gardener all my life. I use snails that eat slugs, and use natural soils and compost and rain barrels.

It's the little things that make a difference. You don't have to be this crusading, Mother Jones kind of person. You do simple things like following watering restrictions. Change your light bulbs from standard to CFL. Don't litter. That's old-school stuff.

Tampa's 'green officer' looks out for city, planet 06/19/08 [Last modified: Thursday, June 19, 2008 2:01pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Jones: Bucs need success to get national respect


    Tampa Bay Times columnist Tom Jones offers up his Two Cents on the world of sports.

    No respect

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter walks the field during the second day of mandatory minicamp at One Buccaneer Place in Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday, June 14, 2017. LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times
  2. Hopes fade after landslide destroys Chinese village (w/video)


    Crews searching through the night in the rubble left by a landslide that buried a mountain village under tons of soil and rocks in southwestern China found 15 bodies, but more than 110 more people remained missing.

    Vehicles and people line a road leading to the site of a landslide in Xinmo village in Mao County on Saturday in southwestern China’s Sichuan Province. More than 100 people remained missing after the village was buried under tons of rocks and soil.
  3. Rookie Jake Faria dissatisfied with performance in Rays' loss to Orioles

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The rookie pitcher walked to his locker Saturday after tossing the fourth quality start in as many tries to begin his career. He held the potent Orioles bats to three runs and for six innings gave his team a chance to win.

    Orioles third baseman Manny Machado tags out the Rays’ Mallex Smith at third after a rundown in the first inning.
  4. Thousands converge in two St. Pete locations celebrating LGBT rights

    Human Interest

    ST. PETERSBURG — Tom Rockhill didn't know what to expect Saturday, but by noon people were knocking on the door of his bar Right Around the Corner in Grand Central.

    (From left to right) Emma Chalut 18, gets a rainbow sticker on her cheek from her sister Ellie, 15 both of Jacksonville before the annual St. Pete Pride parade in downtown St. Petersburg on Saturday. This year the route was changed from the Grand Central and Kenwood area to Bayshore Drive.
[EVE EDELHEIT   |   Times]
  5. Retired Florida Supreme Court Justice Parker Lee McDonald dies

    TALLAHASSEE — A former Florida Supreme Court justice, who wrote a decision that prevented lawyers from excluding jurors because of their race, has died.

    Former Florida Supreme Court Justice Parker Lee McDonald died Saturday, the court said in a statement. He was 93.