Dream Team: Meet four members of Mayor Nutter's administration and the projects and issues they champion

story by Samantha Wittchen and Liz Pacheco | photo by Albert LeeKatherine Gajewski, Director of Sustainability for the City of Philadelphia

Since 2009, Katherine Gajewski has been the face of sustainability for the City. When she took the job, Greenworks Philadelphia, the City’s sustainability plan, had just launched. Gajewski was faced with the formidable task of implementing the framework as well as overseeing a spectrum of projects that routinely cross departmental lines.

Katherine Gajewski, Dirctor of Sustainability for the City of PhiladelphiaFor some people, that might have been daunting, but Gajewski had been managing city-wide projects, such as the Philly Spring Cleanup and the campaign for smoke-free legislation, before accepting her current position. She’s extremely process-driven, which helps her organize tasks and keep things on track—two things especially crucial when working with multiple city agencies.

Gajewski is also a relentless advocate for better communication. Speak to her for just a short period of time, and she’ll likely bring up this missing piece of the sustainability puzzle—that, as a society, we’re not doing enough to communicate the value of sustainability. It’s undoubtedly what drives her to make Greenworks so visible in Philadelphia and move the sustainability conversation forward.

The implementation of Greenworks has been Gajewski’s bread and butter from the start, and it still continues to define her work to make Philadelphia a leader in sustainability. “Sustainability should be the new norm,” says Gajewski. Thanks to her tireless implementation of Greenworks, the reality is a little closer to that ideal. —Samantha Wittchen

Guaranteed Energy Savings Project

The Office of Sustainability has been working with the Department of Public Property and the Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities to put together an energy management and conservation program for the city.The program will help meet the Greenworks target of reducing city government energy consumption by 30 percent.

The Guaranteed Energy Savings Project kicked off in June and will  focus on the City’s “Quadplex” (City Hall, Municipal Service Building, One Parkway and the Center for Criminal Justice). Energy conservation measures, such as lighting upgrades, energy management systems, new chillers for the air conditioning and heating system upgrades, will be made in the Quadplex and paid for by the energy savings generated by the measures. The financing model used will allow the City to realize savings without making a significant investment up-front, something critical in these cash-strapped times.

Projects like this can yield energy savings of 20 percent, which would go a long way towards helping the City reach its 30 percent energy reduction target. As Gajewski explains, the project is a great example of how the mayor’s administration, City Council—which had to pass an ordinance to allow the project to move forward—and outside advocacy organizations can all work together to push projects through that make the City more sustainable.

For more information, visit phila.gov

Karen Randal, Director of Business Attraction and Rentention

Karen randal was raised on sustainability. Her father, an architect, built their family home with radiant floor heating and strategically-placed windows that eliminated the need for air conditioning. When her family moved to the Virgin Islands, they used a cistern system for water and learned the importance of energy efficiency since electricity frequently cut out. “That is really where the foundation for my life really began,” she explains.

Karen Randal, Director of Business Attraction and RetentionHere in Philadelphia, in a position newly created under the Nutter administration, Randal is applying that sustainability-influenced upbringing. As Director of Business Attraction and Retention, Randal isn’t just bringing new business into the city, she’s also encouraging a new sustainable business ethic. Randal explains that part of her job is “to help attract clean technology, help businesses go more sustainable if they have bad practices that are polluting everything, [and] make them more aware of sustainable practices.”

With a history of taking on new, previously nonexistent positions, Randal is a pioneer in the business and economic development fields, and well-suited for the challenges this job presents. She has done work in design, development, sales, marketing, branding, lobbying, even teaching. Her contacts (which fill more than four oversized rolodexes) reflect years of working with businesses throughout the U.S., such as architecture, design and planning firms, manufacturers and real estate companies.

For something like the manufacturing industry—which once thrived in Philadelphia and Randal argues is still going strong—sustainable practices include reducing the carbon footprint of production, using local, nontoxic materials, and employing neighbors, not overseas laborers. Although this can be challenging, Randal believes Philadelphia is on the path to becoming a hub for sustainable business. —Liz Pacheco


SA VA, a women’s clothing line started in 2005 by Reading-native Sarah Van Aken, has become the poster child for Philadelphia’s manufacturing revival. Van Aken originally made her clothes in a fair trade factory in Bangladesh, but after frustrations with production control she began exploring a local option. With support from Randal, SA VA acquired a grant and moved operations to Center City in 2009. Today, the vertically integrated storefront boasts a retail store and design studio with an adjacent manufacturing facility. All items must have at least one element of sustainability, such as organic, fair trade or recycled, and SA VA’s manufacturing has created more than 20 jobs.

Find out more at savafashion.com or visit the store at 1700 Sansom St.


MPC (formerly Materials Processing Corporation) is an e-recycling business that helps companies dispose of electronic and technology products; they specialize in secure management of intellectual property associated with these products. When the Minnesota-based company was looking for an East Coast city in which to base their operations, Randal steered them to Philadelphia. Their Northeast processing facility opened in 2011 and initially employed 15 people. The facility is expected to eventually provide 90 jobs.

For more information, visit mpc-e.com.

Michael Di Berardinis, Deputy Mayor for Environmental and Community Resources

Deputy mayor Michael DiBerardinis didn’t grow up in Philadelphia, but his love for the city is unquestionable. After graduating from St. Joseph’s University, he settled in Kensington/Fishtown where he and his wife raised their four kids. After spending the late 1970s as a community activist advocating for urban homesteading, DiBerardinis started working for a congressman. This job led to public administration, and from 1992 to 2000 DiBerardinis was Recreation Commissioner for Philadelphia. “But during that time,” he says, “[the Recreation Department] had very little focus on sustainability or on energy use, land use, land management.”

Michael Di Berardinis, Deputy Mayor for Environmental and Community ResourcesDiBerardinis gained more exposure in 2003 when he became secretary of Pennsylvania’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. “That world is really filled with policy, operational questions and demands that relate directly to sustainability,” he says. “It was a big leap for me. It took about six months to really understand it and to manage [from] that perspective.”

During this time, DiBerardinis also became an unofficial consultant on Mayor Nutter’s Greenworks Philadelphia plan. He worked with Mark Alan Hughes, founding Director of Sustainability for Philadelphia, on initiatives related to his work in Harrisburg. When DiBerardinis returned as Deputy Mayor for Environmental and Community Resources—a role that oversees the now combined Parks and Recreation Department—he advocated for individual city departments to take leadership roles in reaching the targets.

While a number of Greenworks targets fall under Parks and Recreation, DiBerardinis has focused on three: restoring tree coverage, providing access to public parks and promoting urban agriculture. By working toward these targets DiBerardinis feels his department can reach their ultimate goal: equity. “We want to bring green space, recreation space [and] park space to citizens that don’t have it,” he says. —Liz Pacheco

Green 2015 and TreePhilly

To achieve green space equity for residents, the department has introduced Green2015. The plan is to convert 500 acres of vacant and underused land into parks. So far, about 150 acres have been revived and another 100 are planned. One contributor to Green2015 is TreePhilly—a new initiative to plant 15,000 new trees in 2012. The program is led by Parks and Recreation with support from the City of Philadelphia. The new trees will contribute to the Greenworks target of planting 300,000 trees by 2015. To reach this goal, all Philadelphians are being called upon to plant trees: neighborhoods, businesses, nonprofits, schools, city departments, landowners and most importantly, individual residents. This spring, the program gave out more than 2,400 free trees to residents. And this September, the department is hoping to give away at least another 2,000.

For more information and to apply for a tree, visit treephilly.org

Rina Cutler, Deputy Mayor for Transportation and Public Utilities

In her role as Deputy Mayor for Transportation and Public Utilities, Rina Cutler oversees four major entities: the Streets Department, the Water Department, Philadelphia Airport and the City’s Energy Office. This means large-scale infrastructure projects—like the forthcoming airport expansion—fall under Cutler’s jurisdiction, requiring her to engage engineers, city bureaucrats, community members, state government agencies and regional transit authorities.

Trained as a social worker, Cutler views herself as a change agent who’s helping to shepherd Philadelphia into a new era focused on livability—a word she thinks resonates more with the average citizen than “sustainability.” She focuses on helping people understand and accept that the world is changing, and that we need to work together to change with it. When it comes to city sustainability issues within her control—be they transit, waste or utilities—Cutler feels strongly that part of her job is framing the discussion in a way that makes it real for residents. In her words: “It really is about a long-term effort to make the city a place where people want to live, play, work and recreate.”

Because the Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities (MOTU) is in charge of a diverse group of city departments, the projects defining Rina Cutler’s work are equally varied. During her tenure, the Water Department rolled out its Green City, Clean Waters program, the recycling rate jumped from five to 19.5 percent, the almost-forgotten South Street bridge project was completed, and the city opened a series of new bike lanes. It’s a portfolio of accomplishments that might cause one to become complacent. But Cutler isn’t resting on her laurels. She has a few new projects in the works to support her goal to make Philadelphia more livable.  —Samantha Wittchen

Citywide Bike Share

For years, Philadelphians have been pitching the idea for a citywide bike share. Since then, various concept studies have been done, both by the city and outside organizations. While the rollout is still likely a year to 18 months away, the Mayor’s Office of Transporation and Utilities has already stated exploring how to finance a citywide bike share. One option they’re exploring is how corporate sponsorship might work for such a program.

Public Transit Improvements

MOTU is looking to improve the convenience and accessibility of public transit. They’ll be working with SEPTA to define bus corridors in Philadelphia and implement preemptive traffic signals to make bus service faster. Cutler has also advocated for the renovation of the decaying City Hall station and implementation of an electronic fare system. Although both are still several years out, the projects are already underway.

For more, visit phila.gov/motu