Alexi Lamm has been the City of Moab’s sustainability director since mid-September. Before moving to Moab, she earned her Ph.D. at Utah State University, where she also worked as the sustainability coordinator. What drew her to the position in Moab was that Moab “seemed like a fun place to be,” she said—the city has a number of sustainability goals and policies, and she was excited by the idea of having a community impact.
Her initial goals include finalizing the city’s dark sky regulations—in 2019, the council unanimously voted to require that all outdoor lighting on residential and commercial properties within the city conform to International Dark Sky Standards within five years (August 2024), prioritize Moab’s place in the Utah 100 Communities project—a project that sets a goal to create net-100% renewable energy by 2030—enhancing Moab’s recycling outreach, and completing the city’s sustainability master plan.
To get to know her, The Moab Sun News chatted with Lamm about her position and goals.
Moab Sun News: What does your day-to-day look like?
Lamm: So this is day one of week six. It started with a lot of listening and reading—reading plans, reading minutes for old council meetings. It’s starting to transition more into picking up the loose ends of the simple stuff and moving forward—like, the first thing I did was finish this year’s application for “Tree City USA,” a program with the Arbor Day Foundation.
I’m also looking at the landscape ordinance and water conservation plan, and trying to finally get the dark sky ordinance over the finish line.
MSN: You mentioned that one of your biggest projects is finalizing the city’s sustainability master plan. How are you trying to build on the current draft while also updating it to better reflect Moab now?
Lamm: I’ve mostly been trying to talk to people about the drafts in the past—what they liked about them, and what should be different about it. The last draft came through in 2019, and a lot has changed in the world since then.
I think a lot of it right now is just evaluating the strategy for going about that. We don’t want survey fatigue—people just went through this great community visioning process, and a lot of data from there can be rolled into the sustainability plan.
I want to be efficient about it. I’m also looking at how we can create different chunks of the plan: we have certain pieces, like the city’s water conservation plan. I’m trying to think about which pieces of this plan already exist, and which ones we want to create priorities and actions for.
MSN: How are you trying to balance the needs or wants of the Moab community with the needs of our natural resources?
Lamm: People are pretty in touch with what’s going on in Moab, and what Moab needs. That’s been really helpful to me, as I’m still learning about Moab: a lot of people have really good ideas already, and a lot of work has already been done, especially for water resources.
As far as balancing goes, I think we’re going in a really good direction already: it’s more like I’m trying to organize all of our efforts, as opposed to directing people where to go. People already have a good idea of what needs to happen to protect our resources, and I’m trying to figure out how all the pieces fit together.
MSN: You’ve also mentioned that you want to continue work with the Utah 100 Communities project. What actions are you taking within the city to reach that goal in seven years?
Lamm: That one is moving along pretty well, because there are so many communities already in it, and there’s a framework and a timeline.
I’m focusing on communication for it as it moves forward. Moving into 2023, we’re starting to get to the turning point of implementing all of the things that the project encompasses. One of the big things is looking at the low-income plan to make sure that it’s accessible for everybody. The program’s incredible, in that it would offer renewable energy to the entire community, but we want to make sure that’s actually accessible to the entire community. By the end of this year, the idea is to have solid plans about what those options are going to be for people, and also give people access to information so they can make that choice.
MSN: What job challenges are you anticipating, and how do you think you’ll work through them?
Lamm: The first one is that I’m not originally from Moab, so I’m trying to understand what people want and what I can do to fulfill that—that’s really important to me, and I want to make sure that I do it well.
There’s also the challenge of navigating the best balance between our visitors and locals: we live in a community with a lot of visitors, and I’m trying to understand how to serve everybody who’s here well.
Communication is always a challenge, because it’s a big part of the job, and people are busy. No matter how much you try to get something out there, I know that it’s really easy when you’re living your life, to not necessarily know that something’s happening over here. It’s my job to try to make sure that information is out there, but it is a challenge.
MSN: How much of your job is spent on that education aspect versus drafting policy?
Lamm: I think I’ll know as I get more into the groove of the position. But what it seems like now is that at least a third of the job is just trying to make sure that people know about what’s happening in the sustainability department.
I think people should recognize what kind of community they’re a part of, and I want to show people that the ideas we have are being implemented. For things like the renewable energy project, we want people to be active participants in how it goes and understand what their options are. I think it’s really important to make sure people stay up to date on our sustainability projects, and they have the information they need to make decisions.