James Joerke recently joined Bridging The Gap in a newly created position as associate executive director. Keep reading to learn more about James, his new responsibilities and his hopes for Kansas City’s environmental progress.
An Interview With James:
Primary responsibilities in your new job: Proposal-writing, fee-for-service program development, human resources management and strategic planning, to name a few. Because my new job is literally a new job for BTG, there will probably be plenty of “other duties as assigned” as we move forward!
Start date: November 8
What were you doing before this job? I have worked in local government in the Kansas City region for over 20 years, mainly on environmental and public health issues. I was the air quality program manager at Mid-America Regional Council from 2001 – 2008, the first sustainability program director for Johnson County from 2008 – 2012, and deputy director of health & environment for Johnson County from 2012 – 2018.
Any past interaction with BTG? I have been involved with BTG in a variety of ways since moving to Kansas City in 1998. I have volunteered at the recycling centers, participated in a number of EarthWalks, and encouraged friends, neighbors and colleagues to support the organization. I served on BTG’s Board of Directors from 2010 to 2018, including a stint as vice chair from 2014-2018.
What attracted you to working here? BTG’s mission and organizational values and priorities align perfectly with my own. It’s a privilege to work on and support programs that do so much to make Greater Kansas City a better place for all of us, not only today but for generations to come. The staff are incredibly talented, hardworking and passionate about their work, and they have fun doing it. Also, at the risk of sounding like a shameless flatterer, I have the best boss ever!
What environmental topic/subject are you most passionate about and why? Air quality will always have a special place in my heart, because I began my professional career working on air quality issues. That said, climate change is the biggest challenge that confronts us as a species, and it presents an existential threat. Our political leadership has for the most part failed to take any meaningful action to address the problem. That’s why BTG’s efforts to educate the public about sustainability and environmental protection are so important. Each of us needs to do what s/he can to reduce our contribution to greenhouse gas emissions. We also need to apply pressure to change institutions and disrupt systems that protect the status quo. Our very existence depends on it.
What do you like to do when you’re not at work? I love to hang out and travel with my wife and daughter. Also love to read, mostly non-fiction like biographies, histories and essays. Going to Children’s Mercy Park to see Sporting KC beat a MLS Western Conference foe is always high on the list, too.
What excites you most about working at BTG? Again, the alignment of organizational and my personal values/priorities is wonderful.
What your vision/hope for KC in the next 5 years? 25 years? More trees, more public transit, more bikes, fewer cars, cleaner air.
What might people be surprised to know about you? I trained to drive an 18-wheeler and stopped just short of taking the test for my Class A CDL. Also, I lived in Russia for two years and have an encyclopedic knowledge of 80s pop music.