TAMPA — Mayor Jane Castor fulfilled a campaign pledge Tuesday by hiring the city’s first official tasked with adapting Florida’s third-largest city — surrounded at its southern tip by the waters of Tampa Bay — to the challenges of climate change.
Whit Remer, a South Tampa resident who has been visible in recent years in efforts to make Tampa’s sidewalks and streets safer, was named as the city’s sustainability and resiliency officer.
Remer, a 36-year-old attorney, has worked in environmental law beginning in New Orleans, where he received his law degree from Loyola University of New Orleans.
Early in his career, Remer studied the environmental effects of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and learned about disaster preparedness working on several projects related to 2010′s Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico, according to a city news release.
Later, Remer worked as a policy analyst and attorney for the Environmental Defense Fund in Washington, D.C. on federal legislation helping coastal communities recover from the Deepwater Horizon spill.
Remer has also served as Senior Manager of Federal Government Relations for the American Society of Civil Engineers and, since 2017, as counsel and public policy director for the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety, a research organization focused on building safety and community resilience funded by the insurance industry.
“Strong cities are built on a sustainable and resilient foundation, and we need to prioritize policies and initiatives that will protect our future,” said Castor in a statement. “We are excited to have Whit join the team and continue to build a stronger foundation as we transform Tampa’s tomorrow.”
"I’m excited to join Mayor Castor’s administration as part of a team working to ensure Tampa remains a world-class city for generations to come,” said Remer in the release.
Local environmentalists cheered the announcement.
Sean Sullivan, executive director of the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council, called Remer’s hire a “great sign” of local government prioritizing sustainability. Tampa officials have already worked over the last year and a half with the Regional Planning Council’s resilience effort, Sullivan said, and he expects the new officer to step easily into that collaboration.
Susan Glickman, the Florida director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, said Castor has made it clear she wants Tampa to become a leader on sustainability. Renewable energy is a key part of that push, and Glickman hopes to see the expansion of electric vehicles.“Whit’s background seems tailor-made for the broad range of issues that will require his attention,” she said.
Remer will start May 31 and make $130,000 a year. His duties will include coordinating with city departments to implement a city road map to sustainability and to put Tampa on the road to 100 percent renewable energy by 2045. The release also stated he would be responsible for tackling the city’s troubled history with stormwater management in the face of rising seas and ensuring environmental justice for the city’s nearly 400,000 residents.
Remer recently served as president of Walk Bike Tampa, an advocacy organization that has lobbied for pedestrian and bicyclist safety.
Castor pledged during the 2019 mayoral campaign to create a sustainability and resiliency cabinet position for Tampa.
A nationwide search was launched last fall and Remer’s hire marks a little more than a year after taking office that Castor filled the position. Other Tampa Bay cities have taken the lead on installing a high-ranking official to coordinate a response to climate change. St. Petersburg led the way in 2015. Clearwater followed last year.