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Happy Holidays & The Year Ahead with Anne Evens

Anne_EvensOur fearless leader Anne Evens has helped guide Elevate’s work for over ten years to ensure that our  energy efficiency services consistently deliver on our mission: to provide smarter energy use for all. Her incredible passion, ambition, and care for the organization have helped build a driven team working towards this common goal.

While she possesses all the elements of a great leader, she often appears to function more as a strong member of the team—she is constantly looking for opportunities for staff to contribute their ideas, and regularly bounces around the office for conversation with Elevators. Although she serves as Elevate’s CEO, she is simply a wonderful person dedicated to advocating for, and with, her community. We wanted to give you the opportunity to get to know her better and hear her vision for the coming years.

Anne came to Elevate at the end of 2006 to lead CNT Energy’s work as CEO. She joined an organization with a rich history that included writing Kane County’s Energy Plan, running air conditioner recycling programs, and piloting the Energy Smart Pricing Plan (the predecessor to Hourly Pricing) to 1,200 families. “Over time, we built on our history and started to diversify our programs,” said Anne. “We collaborated with affordable housing organizations, which ultimately gave birth to the work we do in low-income communities. We explored community-level programs by working with communities in the south suburbs to do energy audits and street lighting inventories in order to reduce energy bills. We also worked on research and helped write the Chicago Climate Action Plan.”

img_3131All of these early projects give the illusion that Anne had a large team to assist her, right? “When I started we were a crack team of ten people! We’ve grown a lot in size, for sure, but we’ve also grown in terms of what programs we’re offering and why,” she said. “We started with an innovative pricing program to shift energy consumption off-peak. Our next evolution is to explore what our mission truly means to the people we serve; how are we helping solve real people’s problems, whether they are homeowners, contractors, or affordable housing owners? How do we structure our programs so they’re paced appropriately for what the community wants and needs? And how do we do this in a constantly changing environment?”

The one thing Anne feels hasn’t changed at Elevate is the people: “The kinds of people we attract has been consistent. We’ve built the right team to solve these problems, and will continue to attract the right people because of the mission.” When asked what her favorite part of her position is, she responded without hesitation: “Getting to work with everyone at Elevate.”

Elevate Manager of Business Strategy Jeanine Otte says that “Anne is one of those rare leaders who not only genuinely cares about her staff and their families but encourages the growth of staff, both professionally and personally. Anne’s passionate leadership in the interest of the most vulnerable in our communities, combined with her technical expertise, strategic management, and academic accomplishments, drives Elevate’s work to reduce health hazards in homes, preserve safe, affordable housing and social services, and create jobs.”

YIR_ClimateAnne’s passion for and dedication for the mission comes from many places: “We have to do something about climate change, and that priority is just as high as reinvesting in low-income communities. Our work is at the intersection of those two passions of mine,” she said. “There is currently a huge transition in how we supply energy and water in our communities. The clean energy economy is coming, and if organizations like ours aren’t at the table, and helping get communities to the table, we’ll see low- and moderate-income families left behind. Our role as a nonprofit is to make and move a market for services to all our low income communities.”

Anne sees Elevate’s unique positioning as an enormous asset, noting that the organization is “not single issue. Our commitment to solving problems for working families while moving the clean energy economy forward is what sets up apart. I’m hoping that we’re a force that lifts up voices of low-income communities and brings in investment with ownership, as opposed to us coming in to solve problems. We want to create resources for communities to solve their own problems.”

When she’s not thinking up Elevate’s next project, Anne can be found playing violin with family and friends, gardening, traveling to Mozambique, which stole her heart earlier in her career, or running with GLORY (Gorgeous Ladies of Running Year-Round, of course) in Logan Square. “My running coach is 70 years old and has kept me injury-free for two decades!” she said.

While Elevate has helped thousands of families save on their energy bills, educated ratepayers all over Illinois about the smart grid, and helped provide contractors with steady workflow, Anne recognizes that there is always more work to be done: “In the next three to five years, I want to see big clean energy projects in low-income communities, built by people from the community, that have neighborhood ownership and local benefits. I want us to clearly demonstrate that clean energy investments work and deliver on multiple levels: they’re cost-effective, provide environmental and health benefits, and drive local economic development. I think we’re well equipped to do that.”

With Anne on our team, we couldn’t agree more.

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