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Cherokee ramps up green initiatives with new energy czar

The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians is hiring an energy program coordinator to oversee a growing slate of energy-saving and green energy projects.

The tribe already has a strategic energy plan in place to make Cherokee more environmentally sustainable but needs someone to spearhead it. Solar panels have already been installed near Cherokee’s visitors centers.

“That would be a perfect example,” said Damon Lambert, transportation planner for the tribe, talking about projects the coordinator would head.

Cherokee has led Western North Carolina in green energy initiatives and is home to a number of LEED-certified buildings, including the tribal emergency operations center, its K-12 school complex and its Cherokee Youth Center. LEED certification identifies a building as environmentally friendly.

The tribe hopes to hire someone by the end of November. The energy program coordinator will be responsible for everything from grant writing to managing construction to financial planning for projects. He or she will also be encouraged to come up with new ways to save money and promote energy efficiency within tribal operations.

“We are just looking for new ideas,” Lambert said.

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The position is completely new and is being paid for with a $90,000 grant from the Cherokee Preservation Foundation.

It is unknown what the salary will be for the coordinator, but the grant from the preservation foundation will help the tribe keep the job for three years. After that, the Eastern Band hopes to have realized enough savings through the energy projects and efficiencies to justify maintaining the position.

“We are really excited about it. Hopefully, we will get a great candidate and be able to move forward,” Lambert said.

The tribe has already implemented a number of community projects, including the solar panels and a charging station for electric cars. But, Lambert said he would like to see more done with Qualla Housing, which provides homes for enrolled members, to make the houses energy efficient as well.

“One big thing that we have not done a lot with is housing,” Lambert said. “I think there are a lot of opportunities there.”

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