Norfolk hires chief officer for "catastrophic events"
8 Sep 2014
If you haven't heard the word "resilience" in the context of government, brace yourself. Like sea level rise, it's coming to a coastal city near you.
On Friday June 27th 2014, Norfolk announced the hiring of its first chief resilience officer.
Christine Morris, an assistant to City Manager Marcus Jones since last year, is a former executive at the Hampton Roads Community Foundation.
The position - directly reporting to Jones - was created "to help Norfolk prepare for, withstand and bounce back from catastrophic events and chronic stresses," a city news release said.
Example of stresses could include poverty, violence, unemployment and transportation problems.
Broadly speaking, "resiliency" is the new "sustainability," but with a focus on adapting to vagaries of climate change, which in Norfolk largely means flooding and sea level rise.
In an interview Friday, Morris said part of her job would be to help the city figure out how to "react to the issue of water coming into places where we'd rather it not be."
Part of resiliency, she said, is interdisciplinary thinking, and that could mean having city departments work together better. Conceiving of a flood protection project that also doubles as a recreation area could be an example of resiliency planning.
A $4.6 million federal grant the city recently received to prepare for sea level rise, restore wetlands and create a "green infrastructure" plan will lead to projects that fall under the umbrella of resiliency, city officials said.
Morris' position is an outgrowth of Norfolk's selection last year for a Rockefeller Foundation program called 100 Resilient Cities, which the foundation describes as aimed at "cities who have demonstrated a dedicated commitment to building their own capacities to prepare for, withstand, and bounce back rapidly from shocks and stresses."
The foundation is paying for the first two years of Morris' $140,000 annual salary. Norfolk is the third city in the world to hire a chief resiliency officer, according to foundation officials. The others are San Francisco and a city in Colombia.
In addition to coastal protection, Jones said, the city will also focus on "neighborhood and economic resiliency."
Morris will lead the city's effort to develop a resiliency plan.