Dan Zhu, Ph.D., selected as city's first Chief Climate Officer

Published on January 31, 2023


The City of Gainesville is pleased to announce the selection of Dan Zhu, Ph.D., as its first Chief Climate Officer. Zhu moves into this new position from the Department of Sustainable Development, where she has worked since January 2022. 

“This is an exciting new position and Dr. Zhu is an exceptional choice,” said Gainesville City Manager Cynthia W. Curry. “She knows local government and has a deep understanding of how to approach change in a way that supports all neighbors. She’s an expert in creating equitable ways to promote efficiency and sustainability. And she has lived in Gainesville for more than 12 years.”

While working as a planner for the city, Zhu has interacted with partners at every level, from officials making decisions, to speakers attending meetings and neighbors requesting permits. She also serves as the liaison for the city’s Development Review Board and is involved with the Environmental Justice Subcommittee.

Zhu begins in her new role on Feb. 27.

“It's my great honor to serve the wonderful City of Gainesville. Gainesville is already ahead of the curve when it comes to climate mitigation, but I feel it can benefit more by having a climate action plan in place. My vision is for Gainesville to not only be a climate action leader in Florida, but to be the climate action leader of Florida,” said Zhu.

Since joining the Department of Sustainable Development, Zhu has worked on the city’s widely publicized lighting ordinance. Adopted earlier this year, the revision outlined new guidelines for sidewalk lights to meet Florida Department of Transportation lighting standards. This change improves safety and visibility while preserving the local landscape and protecting wildlife.

Prior to joining the city, Zhu did supervisory and research work as a planner in Marion County where she pushed for policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. She also has traveled the world, preparing the first LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified campus in Shenyang, China and developing a plan to fight sea level rise in Pangkalpinang, Indonesia.

Zhu earned a Ph.D. in Urban and Regional Planning from the University of Florida. Her research focused on environmental science and sustainability. She has a LEED Green Associate credential, an achievement that signals a high level of knowledge about how to use urban efficiency and sustainability to mitigate climate change. Today, Zhu is pleased to move into her new position and looks forward to continuing to serve the City of Gainesville. 

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