Erik is currently serving under Mayor Andy Berke as Director of Sustainability for the City of Chattanooga. Through Chattanooga Forward, a collaborative initiative crafted to continue the “Chattanooga Way” of solving common challenges through public-private partnerships, Mayor Berke has recognized and renewed commitment to preserving the abundant natural resources that have come to be synonymous with the Chattanooga name. Further, the Mayor has identified Sustainability as one of the six key principles guiding the work of the Chattanooga Forward Task Force. As Director of Sustainability, Mr. Schmidt is tasked with championing the integration of sustainability into the execution of City-wide initiatives, as well as identifying and driving sustainable practices from within City operations.
Originally from Houston, TX, Erik earned his B.A. in Biology/Environmental Studies from Baylor University in Waco, TX. Prior to joining the City of Chattanooga, Erik gained over fourteen years of experience in the environmental consulting industry, state government and as a contractor for the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) with a focus on National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) and water quality applications; National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and ecology studies; and wetland and stream mitigation design and permitting. During this time, Erik was instrumental in working with City, County, State, and Federal officials, as well as private stakeholders in the establishment of a permanent conservation easement (PCE) for a 55-acre wetland (Known Exceptional Tennessee Waters) during the design and permitting of a State Industrial Access road servicing the Chattanooga Volkswagen manufacturing plant. Protection of this important habitat facilitated the first-ever LEED Platinum certification for an automotive plant and continues to provide educational opportunities for local schools, while the new road supports local economic growth. Together they are another great example of the benefits of doing things the “Chattanooga Way”.
Since joining the City of Chattanooga, Erik has focused on low- or no-cost federal programs such as the Department of Energy’s Better Buildings Challenge, Clean Energy for Low Income Communities Accelerator, and SolSmart designation program to provide structure and a comprehensive approach to improving the sustainability of City-wide operations while leveraging existing internal resources with external partners to provide long-term, measurable outcomes towards these initiatives.