Alumni Spotlight: Geoffrey Danker (LSC '17)

Geoffrey Danker, AICP, MBA – Policy & Planning Manager, Sempra Utilities, graduate of LSC 2017, has been harnessing the connections he made during his program to adapt Sempra Utilities’ systems to adapt to climate change. See what he has to say about his work and SCLN’s impact!

“SCLN’s Leadership Southern California fellowship motivated and prepared me to attack an exceedingly wicked problem: adapting to climate change. After graduating, I embarked on a comprehensive effort to examine the resilience of Sempra Utilities’ energy system and to better coordinate climate adaptation and hazard mitigation planning with local governments and the broader community. Partnering with non-profits already heavily engaged in the in the climate adaptation and resiliency space (American Planning Association and Los Angeles Regional Collaborative for Climate Change), I learned that local municipalities were struggling financially to keep up with legislative mandates requiring them to update local planning documents.

We knew it was imperative for every city and county to have a comprehensive plan if a climate disaster occurs, so we launched the SoCalGas Climate Adaptation & Resiliency Planning Grant program to provide $50,000 grants to municipalities planning for the impacts of climate change. Over the past three years, we have awarded (8) $50,000 grants with plans to support (3) more grants in 2021. These grants have allowed local municipalities to prepare and approve hazard mitigation plans and climate adaptation plans, positioning them for federal funding if a disaster were to occur.

To further collaboration and outreach, I organized Resilient LA, a collaborative panel/workshop with key leaders including the City of LA’s Chief Resilience Officer and LA County’s Chief Resilience Officer which was attended by 120+ individuals. We also presented key findings at premier environmental conferences including COP24, Global Climate Action Summit and the Climate Leadership Conference. For the research, grant program, and outreach effort, I was awarded the Los Angeles Sustainability Collaborative’s Fellowship Award.

None of this would have been possible without the training and inspiration provided by the Leadership Southern California program. The focus on inclusive collaborative, continuous learning, and a solutions-oriented mindset were paramount in my efforts in combating the wicked problem of climate change.

As an emerging leader, I am learning rigid plans rarely play out how you anticipate and it’s important to be flexible and adaptive. I think it’s important to understand that pivoting is not failure, but rather adapting to new conditions.

My leadership advice for others in the SCLN program is to really connect with your peers in the program. I would recommend going further than Zoom calls and meet folks face-to-face to create connections that will last a lifetime. Finally, maintain that continuous learner mindset. Be inquisitive, be curious, and be a good listener. You do all that, and you’ll be the leader our future needs.”

Thank you to SoCalGas for being a sponsor of SCLN and our Leadership Southern California program.