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Chatham County hires Van Der Wiele to be Sustainable Communities Development Director

Posted Monday, June 1, 2009

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Pittsboro, NC — Chatham County announces that its first director of Sustainable Communities Development, which will oversee several major county functions, is Cynthia F. Van Der Wiele, Ph.D., who has a wide range of experience and education related to the job position. She begins work on June 15, 2009.

The director will coordinate planning, environmental resources, soil erosion & sedimentation control, central permitting, transportation, green building and affordable housing. This will include close relationships with citizen advisory boards, community groups, and other key partners.

A major goal of the position is to develop and implement a long-term comprehensive community sustainability plan for Chatham County that will integrate sustainable practices in the day-to-day operations of county government.

When asked about her new position, Van Der Wiele responded, "I’m enormously enthusiastic about this unique venture and the opportunity to work with the residents and government of Chatham County. With the advent of sustainable design, green technologies, and resurgence of interest in the environment, Chatham County’s leaders aim to shape their communities to have an extraordinary quality of life, while also being conscientious stewards of their exceptional natural resources. I’m just excited to be a part of this."

Van Der Wiele has been accredited through the US Green Building Council as a LEED professional, which means that she has knowledge and skills related to federal rating standards for eco-friendly "green" practices and principles for construction and renovation of buildings.

She also is certified by the state as a prescribed burner, allowing her to conduct controlled burning of areas to aid the environment, and has Red Card certification to serve on federal and state forest fire incidents.

Van Der Wiele most recently worked as an independent researcher where she prepared the first State of the Parks report on the Appalachian Trail for the National Parks Conservation Association. The project involved assessing the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of the natural resources and their management along the 2,176- mile trail that spans 14 states and traverses national parks and forests, private property, and local government districts.

Her endeavors as a consultant also included performing a peer review of North Carolina’s Low Impact Design (LID) Manual, written by NC State University’s Water Quality Group and its Biological and Agricultural Engineering Department.

She previously worked with the NC Division of Water Quality’s Wetlands Unit for over seven years as both an environmental engineer and environmental specialist. This work included: stormwater management; wetlands protection and mitigation plans; reviews of related permit applications and proposed development plans; environmental oversight for numerous Department of Transportation projects; development of related policies and regulations; development of educational and training materials; assistance in planning public hearings; and response to legislative and news media inquiries.

Van Der Wiele also has been an adjunct assistant professor at the College of Design at NC State and an instructor in NC State’s College of Natural Resources.

Other work experience includes serving as an environmental advocate and policy analyst for the NC Coastal Federation and the NC Sierra Club, landscape designer, land resource specialist for the St. Johns River (Florida) Water Management District’s Planning and Acquisition Department, geographic information systems (GIS) technician, and a transportation engineer.

Van Der Wiele’s educational qualifications include a Ph.D. from the College of Design at N.C. State University, awarded in 2004. Her studies focused on sustainable natural resource management practices and the role of ecological design.

She also received two master’s degrees from Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment in 1998, one in forestry and one in environmental management. In 1992, she earned a master’s in landscape architecture from N.C. State’s College of Design.

All master’s work focused on environmental issues, such as open space planning, landscape ecology and minimizing the impacts of municipal utility construction in environmentally-sensitive areas. Her bachelor’s degree in engineering operations also came from N.C. State in 1984.

During her career and studies, Van Der Wiele has received numerous fellowships and awards, including the Superior Service Award from the Wetlands and Stormwater Branch of the NC Division of Water Quality, a Ph.D. dissertation award from the College of Design at NC State, two-time finalist for a policy fellowship from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a Road Gang Award from the NC Board of Transportation, two fellowships at Duke and an Africana Studies scholarship at NC State.

She has produced many publications and has offered seminars and conference presentations on environmental topics in both the United States and around the world.

In her non-work hours, Van Der Wiele continues to be involved in environmental issues:

  • Volunteers as a prescribed fire crew member for the NC Nature Conservancy;
  • Co-chairs the legislative affairs committee for the N.C. Prescribed Fire Council;
  • Serves as a volunteer for the Carolina Vegetative Survey/Pulse to document the state of natural vegetation; and
  • Continues to be an active alumna of Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment.
  • She also participates in team missions to Liberia that focus on rural community development and sustainable agricultural programs.

A resident of Durham, Van Der Wiele is involved in the American Orchid Society as an accredited judge and research committee chair. She plays the clarinet for the North Carolina Wind Orchestra and is a freelance soprano and alto saxophonist. She also an ultra-distance bicyclist and has participated in 24-hour and 1200k races.
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Chatham County hires Van Der Wiele to be Sustainable Communities Development Director
Chet Buell and Cynthia Van Der Wiele

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