When John Dennis (BS ’82 safety engineering; MS ‘99 criminology) took the reins as mayor of West Lafayette, Ind., in 2008, he envisioned maintaining and even expanding ambitious green initiatives.
He inherited a record-setting recycling program, a newly launched Go Greener Commission, and an under-construction $8.4 million wastewater utility upgrade that won an Environmental Protection Agency award before groundbreaking.
Two years into his term, he’s making his mark.
“I’ve tried to find creative ways to continue green initiatives while focusing on things that are fiscally sound,” he says. “That’s a double blessing.”
Recycling is now weekly on trash day. The wastewater utility accepts grease, generates revenue, and produces electricity. And a food grinder has been added, with institutional food waste processing beginning this fall.
“We don’t have smokestacks in this community—we have tree tops, so it’s important to maintain environmental awareness, understand the impact our collective behavior has on it, and do what we can do to improve.”
This summer, Dennis accepted Indiana’s voluntary Comprehensive Local Environmental Action Network (CLEAN) Community Challenge, rolling out a blueprint to increase recycling, purchase an electric vehicle, use biodiesel, and implement other goals.
Dennis credits his environmental awareness to Indiana State University safety management professors.
“That’s when I first started hearing about environmental impacts. Back then, creeks were bubbling with ooze. They were ahead of their time for class curriculum.”
Before becoming mayor, Dennis spent 23 years on the Lafayette, Ind., police force, 14 of those as deputy chief. His pastimes include running, motorcycling, reading and traveling.
Kathy Mayer is a freelance based in West Lafayette, Indiana.