Gainesville hires first chief climate officer

Dan Zhu will step into the Chief Climate Officer role on Feb. 27
Dan Zhu will step into the Chief Climate Officer role on Feb. 27. (Courtesy of city of Gainesville)
Courtesy of city of Gainesville

The city of Gainesville selected Dan Zhu as its first Chief Climate Officer, a new position created at the request of the city commission.  

Zhu works as a city planner in the Department of Sustainable Development and liaison for the Development Review Board. She’ll step into the new role on Feb. 27.  

“This is an exciting new position and Dr. Zhu is an exceptional choice,” City Manager Cynthia Curry said in a press release. “She knows local government and has a deep understanding of how to approach change in a way that supports all neighbors. She’s an expert in creating equitable ways to promote efficiency and sustainability. 

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Zhu earned her Urban and Regional Planning doctorate from UF with a focus on environmental science and sustainability. She helped create the city’s new lighting ordinance and has worked across city departments and with community stakeholders. 

“Gainesville is already ahead of the curve when it comes to climate mitigation, but I feel it can benefit more by having a climate action plan in place,” Zhu said in a press release. “My vision is for Gainesville to not only be a climate action leader in Florida, but to be the climate action leader of Florida.” 

She’s also worked internationally on sustainability projects, according to the press release, designing the first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified campus in Shenyang, China, and developing a plan to deal with sea level rise in Indonesia.  

The search for a chief climate officer role began in the fall of 2021. The city commission tasked Ed Bielarski, then head of Gainesville Regional Utilities, to hire a climate officer as a condition for him to remain with the city.  

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What a WASTE of money!!!!!

Ellen Siegel

I welcome, Dr.Zhu to this new post. I hope that she will be able to sit on the utility advisory board as well as the citizens climate action committee. The citizens climate action committee is working on a climate action plan as well, so I hope these efforts are coordinated. Not only do we have a city issue of sustainability, but we must also be prepared for a wave of climate migrants from south Florida the next time hurricanes level a community or bury houses in the sea.


I gotta say – I didn’t think Gainesville would surprise me like this.
It looks like a race to the bottom, but are there other cities in the competition?