Martha Jane Murray: Working on Solutions to Climate Change

by Bill Paddack  on Monday, Mar. 29, 2010 12:00 am  

Artist. Architect. Designer. Teacher. Environmentalist. Wife. Mother. Advocate. Business leader. Communicator. Activist. Mentor.

Martha Jane Murray has worn - and continues to wear - a number of hats throughout her career, and, in each phase, she has made it a priority to shake things up a little, to ask, "What if?"

Perhaps her former boss and colleague at The Wilcox Group, Steve Kinzler, who is now president and COO of Polk Stanley Wilcox Architects in Little Rock, puts it best when he simply says, "She gets involved. She doesn't just take other people's information; she puts it to the test. That gives her a lot of clout that she really does walk the talk."

That walk and that talk have certainly taken her down interesting paths through the years, from working as an architect to teaching architecture at Tulane University to her current position with the William J. Clinton Foundation Climate Initiative as the Arkansas liaison and program manager with the Arkansas governor's office.

Along the way, she became the first LEED-accredited professional in Arkansas, was the founding chair of the U.S. Green Building Council's Arkansas Chapter and was one of five national core committee members who organized the national U.S. GBC GreenBuild 2005 response for the Katrina sustainable rebuilding effort. 

"What I am doing is not about me," Murray said. "Problem solving is most effective when you bring motivated, passionate and bright people together in an integrated team process. I love meeting people and finding out what makes them tick, then connecting them to other like-minded groups where I believe they can make a contribution.

"Over the last 10 years since I became focused on energy and environmental design, I have made friends all over the United States that have inspired and motivated me to do my part for environmental justice in the built environment. It is pure joy to encounter soul mates and to work together to improve the lives of people and the planet. Many of these mentors reside here in Arkansas and have been soldiering on since the '70s."

Stephanie S. Streett, executive director of the Clinton Foundation, said Murray's work with the Clinton Climate Initiative in Arkansas "is an exciting addition" to the work of the foundation.

"Martha Jane brings a wealth of experience from her work in New Orleans for the Clinton Climate Initiative to this work in Arkansas," Streett said. "Under Martha Jane's leadership, the foundation's climate initiative is working to assist the state in its efforts to retrofit state-owned buildings with the goal of reducing carbon emissions and energy costs.

"Through the initiative's Home Energy Assistance Loan [HEAL] project, Martha Jane and her team assist businesses in retrofitting their facilities to realize energy savings and then use some of those savings to assist the employees of these companies to make energy-saving improvements in their own homes," Streett said. "We are proud that the Clinton Foundation has this unique opportunity to bring some of the resources of one of our major global initiatives, the Clinton Climate Initiative, here to Arkansas."

Marc Harrison, a policy adviser to Gov. Mike Beebe, said, "She's been a great resource to bounce ideas off of, to bring in her expertise in both her previous work with the restoration of New Orleans post-Katrina as well as work that she's done with energy-efficient buildings and beyond that her program of HEAL. ... She truly gives. It's not for herself, but for others that need it. We've had a great working relationship. We're excited about the future and some of the projects that she's doing. She's a wonderful resource. It's amazing to me that she can switch gears so quickly; she can be talking buildings one moment and switch over to something totally different the next and never miss a beat."

Murray said she had found that "the integrated design process, promoted by green building design, is equally effective and rewarding" in program design.

"Once I conceived the HEAL program ... I began to engage many of my colleagues to help me expand this vision," she said. "It has been, and continues to be, a collaborative process and everyone on our team has an opportunity to be creative and offer alternative solutions to achieve our goals of energy efficiency, greenhouse gas emissions reductions and job creation, particularly for lower income working families. CCI was created to advance solutions to the core issues driving climate change. The HEAL pilot program specifically is about demonstrating a scalable and replicable energy benefit program offered through places of business."


'She Gets Things Done'

Murray's visions and goals and her ability to accomplish them don't go unnoticed.

"Not only is Martha Jane smart, talented and passionate, she gets things done," state Rep. Kathy Webb of Little Rock said. "She thinks 'outside the box' and asks 'how can we do this?' rather than 'we can't do this.' I was lucky to see some of the work she has done in the Ninth Ward in New Orleans and to work with her on the Sustainable Building Design & Practices Task Force, as well as on a number of issues during the last session of the Legislature. ... When you want something done, she is the person I go to."

Murray and her husband, Neil Munro, are co-owners of NMF Inc. a shoe manufacturing business located in Wynne. They live in Hot Springs with their two children, Sarah and Evan.

"What continues to drive me," she said, "is the belief that we can't do enough fast enough to avert the consequences of climate change for our children and future generations. My goal is to open people's minds to other possibilities for solving some of our most serious challenges: energy independence and national security, economic development and, most importantly, connecting us to each other and the planet. If I can persevere this year, I hope to demonstrate through CCI the employer-assisted energy-benefit program as an effective, scalable financing tool for residential energy-efficiency retrofits.

"I have a great team," she said, "and I love working with young people. They're very inspiring and energizing. This whole thing for me is a faith journey. It's very much a part of my spiritual being. It's a calling.

"Ultimately, I believe that Scripture 'to whom much is given much is required,' and I have been very fortunate in this life to have been blessed with wonderful parents, family and friends that have nurtured and believed in me. My work is an attempt to answer to that love. I can never do enough to pay it all back."



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