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2015 Speakers

Join the conversation at Austin Earth Day Festival 2015! (3:00pm-4:30pm, hangar stage)

with guests:



Mayor Steve AdlerCity of Austin


Brandi Clark BurtonFounder of Austin EcoNetwork


Pliny FiskCenter for Maximum Potential Building Systems


Mark StramaHead of Google Fiber Operations in Austin


Brigid SheaCounty Commissioner, Travis County


Sarah EckhardtCounty Judge, Travis County


Chris Riley, on Transportation, Cycling and Urban Farming in Austin


Tom “Smitty” Smith, Texas Director at Public Citizen

Our live “70’s style” Eco-Talk-Show will run 3:00pm-4:30pm on the main stage. This televised portion of the festival will include live music and a casual open conversation with some of Austin’s brightest eco-stars!



On November 4, 2014, Steve Adler became Austin’s first Mayor elected under the new 10-1 districted structure. Before that Adler has been involved in a number of community organizations in the Greater Austin region. In 2010, he joined the board of GENaustin, an organization that provides education and mentoring to middle school girls in local school districts to help them make good choices. From 2009-2012, Adler served as the board chair of the Anti-Defamation League Austin Region where he contributed to the creation of the Austin Hate Crimes Task Force and expanding the No Place for Hate anti-bullying program from just a few schools to over 300 schools throughout Central Texas. He served on the Ballet Austin board since the late 1990s and he has supported the organizations work to provide community access to arts, and the creation of new works, including collaborations with organizations in other major cities in the United States and abroad. Adler was also on the founding board of directors for the Texas Tribune in 2009 and later appointed board chair.

Brandi1Brandi Clark Burton is a social entrepreneur, trusted green advisor, writer, and recognized community leader who focuses her energy on connecting people, information and resources. Her passion is promoting healthier people, communities, businesses and planet; and offersprofessional services to help others do the same.

Burton has become Austin’s de facto “green welcome wagon” and wayfinder. In fact the Austin Business Journal said, “If Austin had one green ambassador, it would be Brandi.”


With a background in architecture, landscape architecture, and the systems sciences, Pliny Fisk has made pivotal contributions to the sustainability movement for more than four decades by developing replicable prototypes, protocols and policy initiatives. His prototypes challenge conventional wisdom about building design, engineering, materials, economic development, and landscape and regional planning. Pliny’s seminal life cycle-based protocols helped shape the first green building program, and influenced many more.

He has collaborated on federal demonstration greening efforts, including the Greening of the White House and Greening of the Grand Canyon, and on scores of other pivotal projects such as the EpiCenter building in Montana, the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston, and the Seattle Justice Center, and on Solar Decathlon entries with the University of Texas (2002) and Texas A&M University (2007).

His policy initiatives, including the Austin Green Building Program, the AIA’s Environmental Resource Guide, and greening the Texas Architecture + Engineering Guidelines, have established new protocols with broad implementation. Pliny’s has received several national and international recognitions including the Lewis Mumford Award, the 1992 Earth Summit Award (with the City of Austin), the U.S. Green Building Council’s Sacred Tree Award, and The Passive Solar Pioneer Award. In 2006, Metropolis Magazine recognized Pliny as one of 14 Visionaries; in 2008, Texas Monthly called him one of “35 People Who Will Shape Our Future”; his work has appeared in numerous media.

Pliny was on the faculty at Ball State University, The University of Texas at Austin, and Texas A&M University, and held teaching positions at the University of Oklahoma and Mississippi State University. He also served as an advisor to the MacArthur, Gates, and Enterprise Foundations and served as a Peer Professional for the GSA. He is an inventor, as well as CEO and founder of two proactive private sector technology companies: Sustainable Earth Technologies and the EcoInventorium.

MarkStrama2Mark Strama is the head of Google Fiber in Austin. Previously, he represented the north Austin area in the Texas House of Representatives. Mark received Honorable Mentions on Texas Monthly’s Ten Best Legislators list in three of his five sessions in the House. Texas Monthly said “Strama cares as much about others’ success as his own.”

Prior to running for public office, Mark founded the first company to enable Americans to fill out a voter registration form on the Internet – 700,000 people used this technology to register to vote in the 2000 election cycle. Earlier, Mark was Director of Programs at Rock the Vote, a non-partisan organization that works with MTV and the music industry to engage young people in the political process. He previously worked for former Texas Governor Ann Richards and Texas State Senator Rodney Ellis. Mark graduated from Brown University with degrees in philosophy and political science. He is married to Crystal Cotti, who owns and operates the Sylvan Learning Centers in Austin. They have three young daughters, who fervently, desperately, want a dog.


Brigid Shea – Brigid came to Austin in 1988 to start the Texas chapter of Clean Water Action. Prior to that, she had been an award-winning journalist at NPR stations in Minnesota and Philadelphia. She served on the Austin city council 1993-1996 and championed consumer, electoral and environmental¬†reforms. Shea is the co-founder of SOS, Austin’s historic law to save Barton Springs, has been an advisor to LCRA, Seton, the City of Austin, etc. and her work with a client recently won the TCEQ Environmental Excellence award. She serves on many boards, including the national board of Clean Water Action. She is a 2001 graduate of Leadership Austin and is a member of the Chamber of Commerce Clean Energy Council. She was elected Travis County Commissioner in 2014. She is a native of North Dakota, has 2 teenage boys and is married to John Umphress, Green Building specialist with Austin Energy.

Sarah-headshotSarah Eckhardt became Travis County’s first female county judge on January 1, 2015. Judge Eckhardt presides over a Commissioners Court.

With deep roots in Austin and Travis County, Judge Eckhardt has dedicated her life in public service to improving access to opportunity for Travis County families for more than 15 years.

After receiving her Master of Public Affairs and law degree from the University of Texas at Austin, Sarah worked for eight years as an Assistant Travis County Attorney. In 2006, she was elected to represent Precinct 2 on the Commissioners Court.

Judge Eckhardt has been a leader on addressing the major issues that face Travis County residents. She works to ensure that our community is green, healthy, just and mobile.

Through her service on the Transportation Policy Board of CAMPO, Judge Eckhardt continues to advocate for an efficient network of sidewalks, bike lanes and transit, as well as roads. The Judge serves on the CAPCOG Executive Committee, which crafts collaborative regional solutions for our 10-county region. She serves on Texas Freedom Network’s Board of Directors.

Judge Eckhardt works to protect the region’s air quality through service on the board of the Clean Air Coalition. She further works to build collaborative solutions to our sustainable water future by working with an alliance of our neighbors.

On the vital issues of the economy and equity, Judge Eckhardt seeks a level playing field for Travis County taxpayers and working families to help relieve the property tax burden on our most vulnerable neighbors. Judge Eckhardt’s agenda includes collaboration with other taxing entities in Travis County, with the goal of increased transparency and fairness in taxation.

Judge Eckhardt learned public service and a commitment to Central Texas from her mother Nadine — aide to Lyndon Johnson and Molly Ivins, as well as a mother of four, and her father, the late Congressman Bob Eckhardt. In partnership with her husband, Kurt Sauer, Judge Eckhardt is continuing the tradition with her own family, raising her children in Austin public schools while leading the Commissioners Court every Tuesday.

biking riley2Chris Riley was elected to the Austin City Council in 2009 and reelected in 2011, and served until January 2015. During that time he also served as Vice Chair of Capital Metro, and on the Transportation Policy Board of the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization.

Prior to his election, Chris worked as an attorney, and was actively involved in civic issues. He co-founded the Downtown Austin Neighborhood Association in 1997, and served as its president for five years. He was then appointed to Austin’s Planning Commission and served on it for six years, including two years as its chair. He also served on numerous other city boards and task forces, and was deeply involved in a number of local non-profits, including the Austin History Center Association, the Austin Parks Foundation, and Austin Car-Share.

A native Austinite, Chris is a graduate of Harvard College and the University of Texas School of Law. He has not owned a car since 2008.


Tom “Smitty” Smith, Texas Director, Public Citizen
Smitty has been Director of Public Citizen’s Texas Office since 1985. He has testified over 1,000 times on energy and other issues before the Texas legislature and Congress. His primary goal is to combat global warming.
His proudest accomplishments have been:
*The passage of the Texas Renewable Portfolio standards which have lead to over 10,000 MW of wind being installed in Texas
*The Texas Emissions Reduction program which has cleaned up dirty diesel engines in Texas.
*Passage of laws helping Texans to use energy more efficiently
*Helping to stop fifteen new coal plants in Texas
He has won over a dozen awards for his advocacy work, including the Heinz award and recently was recognized by Politico magazine as one of the 25 most influential Democrats in Texas. ( although he notes there aren’t really that many)
In former lives, Smitty served as the food bank development coordinator for Second Harvest Food, developing food banks across a 10 state region in the southern United States. He became addicted to Texas politics when served as a Legislative Aide to a State Representative Al Price from 1982 to 1985. He was initial Director of the Houston Food Bank; served as Director of the SW Regional Office of the Community Nutrition Institute; and was a legal assistant with Texas Rural Legal Aid and later with Prairie State Legal Services.
Smitty received a Bachelor of Arts from Valparaiso University, Valparaiso, Indiana in1974. He became a Texan by choice shortly thereafter.


Cielo Wind Power1

Cielo Wind Power Presents AISD Student Scholarships (12:20pm, hangar stage)

Continuing Austin Earth Day sponsors, Cielo Wind Power, will be presenting scholarship awards to AISD students selected from the company’s annual essay contest on how students plan to continue environmental stewardship throughout their education and careers.


Our Co-Emcee for the main stage at Austin Earth Day Festival is George Morales, Travis County Chief Deputy Constable in Precinct 2. He was born in Austin and was raised in the Dove Springs Community where he still resides. He is a graduate of Johnston High School and is currently attending Huston-Tillotson University, majoring in Criminal Justice. George’s passion is to build a better community through education, environmental stewardship and health care with a goal of creating “One community, One love”!