Title Image: The Bay Park Conservancy, Inc.
The Climate Adaptation Center 2024 Climate Champion Awards Ceremony
The Climate Adaptation Center is proud to announce the second annual Climate Champion Awards Ceremony!
Join us to celebrate Southwest Florida’s most influential and accomplished contributors to the cause of protecting our environment and our Florida way of life. Let’s show our Climate Champions our gratitude for their contribution to our region!
We will honor our champions, nominated by the community, at a lively awards ceremony hosted by CAC CEO Bob Bunting and CAC Director Elizabeth Moore on February 15th, 2024. The event will be held in Sarasota at Michaels on East, from 11:15 a.m. to 1 p.m. These deserving nominees help make the Suncoast a better place to live and we hope you will help us recognize their achievements. Please join us for lunch to celebrate these exceptional individuals at our inaugural celebration, and help the CAC grow to further its mission.
Tickets are available now!
Take a moment to look at the dedicated nominees that we will be honoring for their hard work and commitment to protecting and preserving Florida and the Gulf Coast region.
David Tomasko, Sarasota Bay Estuary Program
David Tomasko, Ph.D. is the Executive Director of the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program, which is tasked with managing the water quality and natural resources of Sarasota Bay. The Sarasota Bay Estuary Program is one of 28 estuaries in the US EPA’s National Estuary Program. The SBEP oversees diagnostic studies on the bay’s health, developing a watershed-wide pollutant load reduction goal and other technical tasks, and it works with local, state and federal agencies and local stakeholders to develop and implement projects and programs aimed at restoring the health of Sarasota Bay, while also addressing the issues of environmental justice and climate change. David is proud to report that the Florida Department of Environmental Protection is proposing Sarasota Bay for “de-listing” for water quality impairments from nutrient enrichment.
Prior to joining the SBEP, Dr. Tomasko was an Environmental Consultant in both the public and private sectors, with more than 30 years of experience related to water quality assessments and the development of science-based resource management plans. Dr. Tomasko’s projects have led to multi-million dollar and successful restoration efforts in numerous lakes and estuaries in Florida, throughout the Gulf of Mexico, California, the Caribbean Basin, and the Middle East. David has been published more than 60 times in peer-reviewed scientific journals and professional books.
David earned a BS in Biology at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA and his MS in Marine Biology at the Florida Institute of Technology. His PhD was earned at the University of South Florida, studying the health of seagrass meadows and other marine plants in Tampa Bay.
Jessica Meszaros, WUSF Public Media
Since 2012, Jessica Meszaros has been a voice on public radio stations in Miami, Fort Myers, and now Tampa. Jessica is currently a Climate and Environment Reporter for WUSF, and a member of National Public Radio’s Climate Desk.
In her role as environment and climate reporter, Jessica’s goal is to let community members know what’s going on in their backyard and how their neighbors are being affected. Jessica believes that her recreational activities, including camping, hiking and kayaking, further enrich her reporting with a fresh perspective on the human experience within the natural world.
The following are a few examples from Jessica’s extensive portfolio of climate and environment reporting for WUSF:
- Continuing coverage of the increasing cost of electricity due to persistent use of fossil fuels to make energy and how that impacts local residents (Recent examples here, here and here)
- Ongoing coverage of red tide blooms before, during and after events. (Examples: here and here)
- Keeping an eye on developments in “forever chemicals” as the federal government begins to look into how they affect drinking water (Recent examples here and here)
- Covering environmental justice stories, highlighting the voices of the under-served community members most impacted by climate change. Examples here and here
- Public health impacts from climate change, including a national story in collaboration with Climate Central.
- Hurricane coverage before, during and after storms. Jessica is particularly proud of her on the spot reporting from Fort Myers after Hurricane Ian. Some examples here, here and here.
- A community outreach project in 2021 in which Jessica produced audio diaries for local residents impacted by climate change. Examples here and here.
Marshall Gobuty, Pearl Homes
Global Network for Zero Advisor Marshall Gobuty is nationally recognized as a pioneer in net zero home development. A renowned entrepreneur, Marshall is the founder and managing partner of Pearl Homes, a builder of sustainable, affordable, energy-efficient single- and multifamily communities throughout Florida and California.
Marshall has always been ahead of the curve, and his relentless belief that profitability, sustainability, and scalability aren’t mutually exclusive has made him one of the earliest, most effective, and most innovative adopters of green home building. Marshall leverages his developments for community-wide impact, working toward solving the livability crisis by creating a model for net zero home development that can be scaled affordably.
Marshall’s portfolio includes Mirabella, a community of 160 sustainable homes in Bradenton, Florida. In 2015, Mirabella became one of the first communities on a production scale to achieve LEED Platinum certification. It also includes Hunters Point, a Pearl Homes community that in 2018 earned the world’s first-ever LEED Zero home certification for its Hunters Point model home.
Marshall was named “Power Builder of the Year” by the U.S. Green Building Council four years in a row (2016-2019) and again in 2023, and in 2019 was bestowed the honor of “LEED Visionary of the Year” in recognition of his award-winning, eco-friendly design and construction. Marshall continues to set the model for what’s possible for the rest of the home building industry and beyond by committing to certifying his portfolio as “net zero” with Global Network for Zero.
Steve Newborn, WUSF Public Media
Steve Newborn has been a reporter for WUSF Public Media for more than two decades, covering a wide range of issues, with a particular focus on the environment.
Steve is particularly proud of his work publicizing the need for a wildlife corridor to connect what could become isolated patches of preserved areas, thus allowing wildlife such as the Florida panther and black bear to migrate and not become inbred. He covered the Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition on their inaugural trip in 2012, from their start at the southern tip of the Everglades through the heart of the state, north to the Okefenokee Swamp. Steve did it again in 2015, a trek beginning in the Everglades Headwaters and stretching west along the coast of the Florida Panhandle to the Gulf Islands National Seashore at the Florida/Alabama border.
At first, no one really knew what a wildlife corridor was, and even fewer believed its preservation would become enshrined in state law. Thanks to the work of the Florida Wildlife Corridor Foundation, covered by Steve and others, in 2021 the Florida Wildlife Corridor Act was signed into law with unanimous bipartisan support by the Florida legislature. Since 2021, the legislature has gone on to budget nearly $2 billion for protecting land in the Florida Wildlife Corridor.
Steve has also played a key role in shining a spotlight on Florida’s phosphate industry, covering community opposition to the proposed phosphate mine in DeSoto County and the Piney Point phosphate plant, guilty of releasing more than 200 million gallons of polluted water into Tampa Bay in 2021.
Jennifer O. Rominiecki, President and CEO, Marie Selby Botanical Gardens
Jennifer O. Rominiecki began her tenure as President and Chief Executive Officer of Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in February 2015. Since arriving, she has repositioned the institution as The Living Museum®, securing a trademark from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Enacting this new operating model has yielded increases of 128% in membership and 135% in overall earned revenues. Rominiecki has also overseen the creation and execution of the Selby Gardens’ Strategic Plans, and an innovative Master Site Plan for which more than $57 million has been raised. By January 2024, with Rominiecki at the helm, Selby Gardens will complete construction of Phase One – including the world’s first net-positive botanical garden complex, generating more energy than it consumes. In 2020, she oversaw the adoption of Historic Spanish Point as a 30-acre companion campus to Selby Gardens’ Downtown Sarasota location to form one organization with two bayfront sanctuaries connecting people to air plants of the world, native nature, and regional history.
Prior to joining Selby Gardens, Rominiecki amassed twenty years of experience at major New York City cultural institutions, notably the New York Botanical Garden, The Metropolitan Opera, and the Guggenheim Museum. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree with Honors from Lafayette College, and completed the Women’s Leadership Forum at Harvard Business School in June 2017.
An active member of the community, Rominiecki is a member of Leadership Florida Cornerstone Class XXXVI and the International Women’s Forum Florida Suncoast Chapter. She is Chair of the Board of VISIT FLORIDA, and serves on the boards of a number of organizations, including the Science and Environment Council of Southwest Florida and the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce.
In 2023, Florida Trend Magazine named Rominiecki to the Florida 500, a list of Florida’s most influential business leaders. Under her leadership, Selby Gardens was named the Woman Led Business of the Year in 2021 and the Small Business of the Year in 2019. In 2019, Rominiecki was named a Businesswoman of the Year Honoree by Tampa Bay Business Journal. In 2017, she received the AJC Civic Achievement Award and the Leadership Award for Arts Management from the Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County. She was presented with SRQ Magazine’s Women in Business “Hear Me Roar” Leadership Award in 2016.