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Metro Newsroom

Riehm Environmental Award Goes to Mike Mulheirn of JCPS

Tuesday April 26, 2011

Fischer also signs on to national Alliance for Green Schools

The second annual Joan Riehm Environmental Leadership Award was presented today to a Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) administrator who is a “gift to the community” according to his nominators.

Mike Mulheirn, the JCPS Executive Director of Facilities/Transportation, received the award created by the Partnership for a Green City – a collaboration between the University of Louisville, Louisville city government and JCPS. It honors Riehm, a former Louisville deputy mayor and a lifelong advocate of environmental and public partnership initiatives who died of cancer in 2008.

“Those of us in the public sector -- city government, public schools and our largest university -- not only create a large environmental footprint, but we also carry the responsibility to lead the way and set an example for the entire community” said Mayor Greg Fischer.

Mulheirn is finishing his twelfth school year with JCPS. His innovative green approach to transportation and facility improvement has been recognized by environmental publications across the country.

When Mulheirn arrived at JCPS, he successfully reduced unnecessary garbage hauling by implementing new recycling procedures. The program cut costs by hundreds of thousands of dollars and, each year, saves about 17,000 trees and 24 million gallons of water.

JCPS has improved its use of solar hot water and internal light under Mulheirn’s direction. He also pursued the installation of the first wind turbine at one of the district’s schools.

"Mike Mulheirn is clearly a visionary and a change agent,” said Dr. Sheldon H. Berman, superintendent of Jefferson County Public Schools. “Many of the improvements within our approach to environmental stewardship have been directly attributable to his leadership.”

The Riehm Award recognizes a person or group that leads environmental sustainability efforts in the community. It is presented yearly on Earth Day and includes a $500 cash award. The first award was presented in 2010 to Larry Owsley of the University of Louisville.

"For the second year in a row, an employee from Louisville's education sector has received this significant award,” said Dr. James Ramsey, president of the University of Louisville. “That shows the leadership local educators have on environmental and sustainability issues."

Fischer joins Alliance for Green Schools

Joined by the two largest education organizations in Louisville – the University of Louisville and Jefferson County public Schools -- Fischer today signed on to the national Mayor’s Alliance for Green Schools, a coalition of nearly 50 large and small-city mayors who promote the benefits of greener schools in their communities.

Fischer said he was committed to working with JCPS, UofL and other schools and universities to maximize the investment in green, and energy-saving, infrastructure and programs.

“It’s important that our schools, dorms and education facilities are as energy efficient as possible, that we have trees on our school campuses, and sidewalks leading to our schools to promote walking and cycling,” Fischer said. “Being green also means saving green, which is critically important for those of us who are stewards of the taxpayers’ dollars.”

The Alliance for Green Schools is an initiative of the U.S. Green Building Council.


Mike Mulheirn

Thanks to the efforts of Mike Mulheirn, JCPS can now boast of eight Energy Star schools, as designated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

· Ramsey Middle School was built with an enhanced thermal envelope, including additional roof and wall installation and Solar Ban 80 window glazing which reflects heat in the summer and absorbs it into the building in the winter. Ramsey rated in the 95th percentile in the country for energy efficiency.

· When Cane Run Elementary was renovated, Mulheirn encouraged the use of geothermal heat and cooling, “green” roof, solar light tubes, and pervious pavement that reduces water runoff. Cane Run is now rated in the 92nd percentile for energy efficiency.

Mulheirn has improved the environmental impact of transportation by securing $295,000 in grants to retrofit the exhaust system on 178 school buses, significantly reducing particulate matter emissions. He also pursued a grant to secure 32 hybrid electric school buses.

In addition to his wide array of job responsibilities, Mulheirn advocates for Minority and Women Business Enterprises, and has served as a board member on the Tri-State Minority Supplier Development Council and the Kentucky Clean Fuels Coalition.

About Joan Riehm

Joan Riehm dedicated her professional life to public service – to strengthening Louisville and its region. She worked primarily in the public sector, for the city of Louisville, the state of Kentucky and for Louisville Metro, helping create the newly merged city and county.

Her hallmarks were idealism, practical strategy and a positive personality that built partnerships and could create community collaboration toward the most ambitious goals.

Riehm was instrumental in developing the Partnership for a Green City, creating the

director’s position. She was a lifelong advocate for environmental issues and a passionate supporter of Brightside.

After voters approved government merger in 2002, Riehm co-chaired the Mayor’s merger transition team. In 2003, she joined Mayor Jerry Abramson’s administration as deputy mayor. She spoke to dozens of cities and groups around the country about Louisville’s experience with government merger, sharing insights on how to create efficient government partnerships.

In 2007, she retired as deputy mayor to become a private consultant and chairman of the Philadelphia-based Alliance for Regional Stewardship, a national organization that promotes regionalism and assists metropolitan areas with their efforts to collaborate.

Riehm spent more than three decades in communications and government service. She was a reporter and editor for The Courier-Journal, news editor for two weekly newspapers in the U.S. Virgin Islands and communications director for the Kentucky Department for Human Resources.

She was press secretary to Louisville’s mayor in the 1970s and deputy mayor from 1986 to 1996. In the private sector, she managed government relations for Humana Inc., operated her own consulting business in public issues management and communication and coordinated a 23-county Regional Leadership Coalition of area business leaders.

She co-founded the Leadership Kentucky program, now in its 25th year.

Riehm died at age 62 after losing a battle with cancer in 2008.

Partnership for a Green City

The Partnership, the first of its kind in the country, represents a collaborative effort to improve environmental education, health and management by three of Louisville's largest public entities: Louisville Metro Government, University of Louisville and Jefferson County Public Schools. It was created in 2004 to help overcome challenges to Louisville's environmental practices.

Together, the partner agencies employ some 26,000 people, enroll 120,000 students, and own more than 500 buildings, 7,000 vehicles, and 25,000 acres of land.