Thursday, December 2, 2010

EPA Administrator, Lisa Jackson featured in Elle Magazine

Lisa Jackson was featured in this month’s Elle Magazine in an article about Power Women in Washington, DC. I loved this piece on Ms. Jackson, because she is often overlooked and unnoticed in a crowed Obama administration. Yet she has one of the most important jobs there is protecting the environment and enforcing laws. Here are some excepts from her interview with Elle. You can read the rest, Here.

Lisa Jackson: The Eco-Chief
Three years before Barack Obama chose her as a member of his cabinet—the first person of African-American descent to serve as EPA administrator—Lisa Perez Jackson went to New Orleans to visit her mother, the woman who adopted her when she was less than a month old from an orphanage in Philadelphia, “who made one unselfish decision that changed my life.” It was her mother’s 77th birthday. It was also August 27, 2005—two days before Katrina hit. She lived in the Ninth Ward, where Jackson was raised. Her dad was a mailman, her mother a secretary. The future EPA administrator spent her mother’s birthday driving her the hell out of New Orleans. When Katrina hit, two days later, “the house I grew up in and where my mother raised all her family was under water for two, three weeks. I always say ‘destroyed,’ but you can actually go and physically see the shell of it.”

You might say she was uniquely qualified to head the EPA. In addition to her lofty degrees—summa cum laude from Tulane, a master’s in chemical engineering from Princeton—she was head of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (imagine that agenda) and chief of staff to then-NJ governor Jon Corzine. But after Katrina, and she got her mother safely out, she felt “a real pull to move—to sort of give up the life and move back to New Orleans and help.” Her mother talked her out of it. “She was very adamant: ‘Don’t go back, I’m not there. Why would you go back?’ And ironically, five years go by and now I’m the head of the EPA when we have the Gulf oil spill. So perhaps I wasn’t supposed to go back. Maybe Katrina wasn’t the right time, but I certainly don’t intend to waste the opportunity to try to help the Gulf Coast region now.”

Fun fact: You should have seen her dance to Pandora at the photo shoot at 7 a.m. She has a style and a joie de vivre that is both refreshing for Washington and pretty cool for female cabinet members. (Remember all the hoo-hah over Madelaine Albright’s pins?)

What the average person can do: “Environmental change happens when people rise up and say, ‘This is not an acceptable situation. I want cleaner water and I want products and food that are healthy.’”
Best advice she got from a former cabinet member: “When you do your job right, you find the right balance between managing internally with your EPA staff, and managing externally with all the people in Washington.”


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