Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Ellen Smyth: Portrait of Caring and Service

Ellen Smyth speaks at Rep. Susie Byrd's monthly breakfast.

Ellen Smyth listens and takes notes. She doesn't get defensive when someone mentions a concern nor does she try to explain away a problem. She takes notes. Literally. That's what she was doing at the most recent breakfast meeting hosted by Rep. Susie Byrd. As Director of the City's Environmental Services, she didn't just come to tell about the new jobs her department was taking on. She came to listen.

Beginning this month, Environmental Services adds Animal Services to its existing divisions which include air monitoring, recycling, sustainability, landfills, code enforcement, building inspections and more. Environmental Services does everything from vector control to tattoo parlor inspections to monitoring air for biochemicals and other potentially lethal hazards as part of the City's responsibilities to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Ms. Smyth handed out the brochure Know What to Throw and discussed the City's recycling program. Although glass and grass are not yet recyclable, Environmental Services will be taking the first steps toward composting by purchasing a chipper. She hailed the success of the curbside recycling program. Prior to the program only about 10% of the City's trash was diverted to recycling - now it is 18% and growing. Attendees of the breakfast asked questions about flow control which has been postponed until 2014. Ellen mentioned that Ft. Bliss wants City trash as part of its goal to have all of its power come from renewable resources.

People voiced some concerns and mentioned some problems. Ms. Smyth took notes and wrote down locations. She's a problem-solver not a justifier - a breath of fresh air when too often some in governmental services can't be bothered by the people they serve.

For more information, visit www.recycleelpaso.org and the Environmental Services web page.

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