The 2016 Jane B. Sharp Lifetime Achievement Award is going to an extraordinary, compassionate, and unrelenting force in North Carolina’s environmental and political space: Nina Szlosberg-Landis. Although this is described as a lifetime achievement award, we know that Nina has barely scratched the surface on leaving a better North Carolina for all of us. Nina has been a tireless advocate for our natural resources and for our quality of life in all that she has done.
What prompted Nina to become such an advocate for our air, land, and water? In Nina’s own words “The environment is our life support system. Protecting it is essential to the health of pretty much everything we care about. If you care about education: it doesn’t matter if we have world class schools if children are in the hospital because of ozone induced asthma. If you care about business: world class companies live and die by the talent they are able to attract and retain. Talented people care about where they live. If given a choice between a community with ozone warnings, traffic congestion and no open space for jogging trails, biking, etc. and a city that is clean with amenities, they will choose the ‘green’ city. So, protecting the environment is important on many fronts.”
Nina’s record of conservation in the public sector is inspiring, to say the least: under Governor Easley, she was appointed to one our state’s most important administrative policy-making bodies: the Board of Transportation, where she oversaw NC DOT’s policies, budget, and programs through the environmental lens. Here, she brought her vast knowledge of “smart growth” policies as well as her unyielding commitment to protecting NC’s air, land, and water. She served in this capacity for 12 years – establishing the Board’s first Environment Planning and Policy Committee in the process. She also founded ‘The Hillsborough Street Partnership’ to revitalize the historic Hillsborough Street Corridor in Raleigh. And, in her free time, she served on the Triangle Transit Board of Authority.
Politically, Nina has not shied away from putting her values into action. In 2010, she served as co-chair of the NC Democratic Party on a coordinated campaign with then Charlotte Mayor (now U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary) Anthony Foxx. She also was a delegate to the DNC in both 2004 and 2012.
Of course, Nina has a special place in the heart of NCLCV, back when the organization was known as the Conservation Council of North Carolina. She joined the Board of Directors back in 1996 (yes, at the ripe age of 16, you are correct!) and helped establish NCLCV as the political arm of the environmental community; an organization willing to be in the election mix, to hold legislators accountable, and to go above and beyond to protect all North Carolina citizens.
As part of a letter of recommendation, Jane Preyer said this of Nina: “Every important environmental policy that has been achieved in North Carolina over the last two decades can be attributed in large part to Nina’s compelling voice, her work to secure financial support, and her determined advocacy.”