Staff

Chris Herbert, Executive Director

As Executive Director, Chris leads SPEER’s initiatives to increase energy efficiency in buildings, energy code adoption and compliance, commercial and industrial efficiency, local government efforts, and policy issues, as well as recruiting and supporting the membership. Chris’ been engaged with SPEER since its inception, serving as Managing Director since 2014, and she has been instrumental in developing new programs and communicating new ideas.

Previously as Vice President of Good Company Associates, Chris managed a variety of resource efficiency initiatives to reduce resource consumption and reduce air emissions in Texas. She was responsible for energy efficiency business development and program design for retail customer initiatives, and supporting government affairs work with several local and state agencies. She served as the Executive Director of the Fuel Cells Texas industry group, supporting demonstration sites and educational outreach. She worked with the Texas Railroad Commission, completing market analysis studies under grants from the Propane Education and Research Council.  She has been Regulatory Specialist for the National Biodiesel Board since 2007.

She served for 8 years on the City of Austin Resource Management Commission and the Electric Utility Commission, which advise the City Council on utility services, energy and water conservation, alternative energy technologies, and renewable energy sources. Prior to joining Good Company in 2001, Chris was a Patient Advocate for the Department of Veteran Affairs, Adjunct Faculty at Carroll College, and was an effective participant in four biennial sessions of the Montana Legislature effecting rural health and educational issues.

Kelly Herbert, Managing Director

As the Managing Director, Kelly is responsible for the financial, human resources and operational aspects of SPEER. This includes the day-to-day internal operations, including organizational communications, deliverables, and reporting. Kelly works with staff to ensure that all SPEER programs not only meet the required deliverables, but also achieve success and sustainability. Kelly’s background in organization management, customer service, and community programs are valuable to SPEER. Kelly has been engaged in SPEER since its inception, having served as the Local Government Program Manager, as well the Operations Manager, and now SPEER’s Managing Director.  She has been instrumental in developing and expanding the local government program and educational opportunities. Kelly has also been involved in the creation and implementation of organizational programs and policies.

Kelly leads SPEER’s initiatives to increase energy efficiency in buildings, including work on various local government efforts to promote the advancement and effectiveness of energy efficiency programs and projects at the local level. She is engaged in SPEER’s City Efficiency Leadership Council, which involves creating coordination, communication and the sharing of best practices between the six largest cities that have been highlighted in our 10 Best Practices. SPEER is also working with midsize and smaller cities to create a collaborative network to promote these ideas in an effort to expand the adoption of energy efficient practices. Kelly is also involved in the outreach and coordination of other various local government efficiency initiatives and resources.

Before focusing on SPEER, Kelly provided policy and regulatory analysis and support for Good Company Associates, working with project managers on a variety of issues in Texas, California, and New York. Kelly supported various projects including a tree planting pilot program, advanced lighting technologies, and Texas Commission on Environmental Quality TERP applications and grants. While completing her degree, Kelly provided support for Good Company project managers including research, billing, collections, and general office management.

Kelly received her B.S. in Criminal Justice with a minor in Political Science from Texas State University. In 2015, she also received her M.S. in Nonprofit Management and Leadership.

Susan King, Finance Manager

Susan is the Finance Manager for SPEER. She directly oversees and manages the accounting and financial operations of the organization. Her responsibilities include accounts payable, billing and receivables, payroll, reporting to the Board Treasurer, oversight of audits and tax preparation.

Since 2001, Susan worked for Good Company Associates, as Chief Financial Officer, and took on the additional responsibilities of General Office Manager in 2008. As an integral part of the organization, Susan was involved in all day to day efforts, client accounts, collections, reporting, payroll and human resources.

While at Good Company, Susan was involved in the formation and accounting for three non-profit organizations that have been managed and staffed by Good Company. A group of national manufacturers organized to form Fuel Cells Texas, a 501 (c) (6), for the promotion of this new clean energy industry, which operated from 2001 – 2005. Good Company also provided accounting and staffing for the Texas Foundation for Innovative Communities, a 501 (c) (3), from 2008 – 1010. Susan was instrumental to the organization of SPEER, which is a 501 (c)(3) organized in 2011 and staffed by Good Company.

Before joining Good Company, Susan worked as a staff accountant for Cade & Company, a CPA firm in Dallas and passed the CPA exam in 1989. Susan graduated from University of South Florida with a Bachelor of Science degree in business in 1986.

Richard Morgan, Senior Energy Code Compliance Program Manager

Richard is the Energy Codes Compliance Program Manager at SPEER. The goal of the Energy Codes Compliance program is to increase the level of compliance with the state adopted energy code in Texas and Oklahoma, and to provide support to code jurisdictions seeking to adopt higher codes than the state minimum.

Prior to joining SPEER, Richard was the Green Building and Sustainability Manager at Austin Energy where he worked for more than 16 years. Richard’s responsibilities at Austin Energy included managing its nationally recognized Green Building programs, the Zero Energy Capable Homes and commercial energy code initiatives and the Electric Vehicle and Emerging Technologies programs.

While at Austin Energy, Richard was a member of the Sustainable Building Technology Committee (SBTC) of the International Codes Council which developed the initial versions of the International Green Construction Code. On the SBTC, Richard was the chair of the Energy Working Group which developed the Energy Chapter of the IGCC.

In the early 1990s Richard was a member of the team that developed and implemented the Casa Verde Builders Program at the American Institute for Learning (now American YouthWorks). Casa Verde is an award winning program that works with at-risk young people to build affordable, very green homes for low income families in Austin. Richard managed Casa Verde for five years.

Richard is a Certified Project Management Professional with over 40 years experience in the building and clean energy industries.

Jason Vandever, Energy Code Program Manager

Jason Vandever expands our staff to meet the goal of the Energy Codes Compliance program, which is to increase the level of compliance with the state adopted energy code in Texas and Oklahoma.  He and Richard will work together to expand our compliance education and outreach to local areas in our region, and to provide support to code jurisdictions seeking to adopt new codes.  Jason has been a SPEER Energy Code Ambassador for two years.

Jason has over 15 years combined experience in building construction and inspection.  Prior to joining SPEER, Jason was the Chief Building Official for the City of Granbury for four years and served on the NCTCOG Energy and Green Advisory Board.  Jason’s responsibilities with the city included everything from plan review through the issuance of the certificate of occupancy.  Jason was the Housing Official for the City of Temple for four years before that.

While at the City of Granbury, Jason’s work in the building department improved the city’s ISO rating from 99 to  6, significantly reducing the city’s risk factor used by insurance companies in setting hazard insurance rates.  He maintains nine (9) ICC certifications, is a Certified Building Official and a Texas Municipal League Leadership Fellow.  He plans to use his experience to create opportunities for the various building officials, builders and contractors to improve their understanding of the codes, the building science behind the codes and, ultimately, the efficiency of the homes they build and inspect.

Jason has a MBA from Texas Tech University.

Virginia Palacios, State and Local Policy Manager

Palacios manages research and partnerships aimed at reducing air pollution through energy efficiency measures in Texas.  Additionally, she examines state and local level policies, including those that influence energy efficiency programs implemented by investor-owned utilities, financing energy efficiency and broad participation in energy markets.

Palacios was a Senior Research Analyst at Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) prior to joining SPEER.  There, she led the creation of a workshop series in South Texas, aimed at connecting rural and Spanish-speaking communities with the appropriate regulators for reporting potential oil and gas pollution incidents.  In addition to her work with impacted communities, Virginia has worked with natural gas utility leaders on adopting advanced leak detection technologies.  In 2016, she worked with EDF in collaboration with New Jersey’s largest natural gas utility to demonstrate the benefits of a pilot project using advanced technologies and analytics to prioritize a $905 million infrastructure replacement program.

Palacios’ work includes peer-reviewed publications on emissions from natural gas system leaks.  Additionally, she co-authored reports on the economic potential for reducing wasted gas from oil and gas production in Texas, and on operationalizing leak mitigation methods for natural gas utilities.  She brings experience testifying as an expert witness and writing public comments for regulatory proceedings in New York, Illinois, and Massachusetts.

Although now fully engrossed in energy and environmental policy, Virginia is a former airplane pilot, with a Bachelor of Science in Aeronautical Science. After changing careers in 2007, Virginia went on to earn a Masters of Environmental Management from Duke University. In 2017, Virginia was an Austin Under 40 Awards finalist in the Engineering, Energy, Mobility, & Systems Sciences category.

Liz John, Communication and Event Coordinator

Liz is the Communication & Event Coordinator for SPEER.  She manages the Building Operator Certification (BOC) Program and is responsible for both marketing and implementing the program to current and potential building owners, operators, and facility managers. In managing the program Liz recruits and coordinates qualified instructors to provide excellent education and training in building operations and maintenance. In addition to supporting these courses, she works closely with both the students and the instructors to encourage successful certification of each participant.

Liz is also responsible for the planning and coordination of the Annual SPEER Summit, SPEER Member Meetings and SPEER Member Retreat, and various other program trainings. She provides the oversight on all logistics, including compiling materials and working with conference site staff to efficiently execute set-up, registrations, and most importantly provide smooth meeting delivery. Not only does her marketing and sales background provide her the necessary skills that make these important conferences and seminars a success but they also allow her to demonstrate her proficiency in social media and website building.

As the Communication and Event Coordinator she carries the role of updating and maintaining website content in addition to creating weekly marketing campaigns and news blasts. She also executes and monitors social media material, including utilizing various platforms to help promote SPEER’s mission, programs, and members.

Prior to joining SPEER, she gained experience with Texas Electric Cooperatives where she worked in the Communications and Member Services Department.  Liz graduated from Louisiana State University, receiving her B.S. degree in Marketing.  She was a member of a leadership development program, Sigma Alpha Pi, the National Society of Leadership and Success, as well as a Dean’s List recipient.

Kelsey Horton, Local Government Program Coordinator

Kelsey is the Local Government Program Coordinator at SPEER. Kelsey leads SPEER’s efforts to advance energy efficiency projects within cities, school districts, and local governments. Kelsey manages SPEER’s City Efficiency Leadership Council, which involves coordination and the sharing of best practices among cities throughout Texas on energy efficiency topics. Kelsey also works closely with small and mid-sized cities to facilitate peer-to-peer sharing on energy efficiency challenges, such as implementing LED street lighting or financing municipal retrofit projects, through the City Leadership Council. By developing these relationships with city staff across Texas, SPEER can better assist them in situations where barriers to energy efficiency projects arise.

Kelsey also supports SPEER’s Energy Codes Program where she facilitates popular bi-weekly educational webinars tailored to code officials and other building industry stakeholders. She provides support to local code officials, coordinates training events, and creates online content to communicate SPEER’s energy code efforts.

Previously, Kelsey worked at the Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance (MEEA) where she coordinated the Midwest Home Performance Collaborative and the award-winning Illinois Home Performance with ENERGY STAR® program. While at MEEA, Kelsey was involved in residential energy code compliance studies in Kentucky and Missouri where she provided stakeholder engagement, training coordination, and data analysis.

Before entering the energy efficiency industry, Kelsey co-founded and managed a farmer’s market in Chicago and managed outreach for a university recycling program. Kelsey graduated from Loyola University Chicago with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Environmental Studies and Peace Studies.

Karen Blaney, Director, Austin 2030 District

As the Director of the Austin 2030 District, Karen will be providing local direction, recruitment, and technical assistance for this locally driven private/public cooperative effort to practice efficiency downtown.  The participating private businesses in Austin volunteer to adopt the goals for energy, water and fuel savings.  SPEER’s support for this project helps promote high-performance buildings within the city’s downtown business district.

Karen brings a range of related expertise that will help District members achieve their reduction targets. She has more than 15 years of building energy efficiency education, strategic planning, project management and relationship development experience in the nonprofit and higher education sectors, most recently at the University of Texas at Austin. She was responsible for coordination of the university’s sustainability reporting. She is looking forward to using her network of professional contacts and experience with demand-side energy reduction programs to rapidly advance the Austin 2030 District.

Karen holds degrees from Austin College in Sherman, Texas, and Pennsylvania State University. She is also a Senior Fellow in the Environmental Leadership Program.

Salima Moolji, Director, Dallas 2030 District

As the Director of the Dallas 2030 District, Salima will be providing local direction, recruitment, and technical assistance for the project.  The participating private businesses in Dallas have committed to promote high-performance buildings within the city’s downtown business district to reach energy, water and fuel savings.

Salima brings great energy and a wide range of expertise that will help District members achieve their reduction targets. As a commercial real estate broker in the DFW region and instructor for the Texas Real Estate Commission, she brings extensive knowledge about the commercial real estate market and the ways that high performance buildings add value individually and in a designated district.  She brings an extensive network of business owners, commercial real estate brokers, property managers, and finance professionals that will help to expand and support the Dallas 2030 District.

Salima graduated from Southern Methodist University with a degree in Political Science and Economics.

Elizabeth Kertesz, Director, San Antonio 2030 District

As the Director of the San Antonio 2030 District, Elizabeth will be providing local direction, recruitment, and technical assistance for the project.  The participating private businesses in San Antonio have committed to promote high-performance buildings within the city’s downtown business district to reach energy, water and fuel savings.

Elizabeth has worked in the sustainable and high performance building industry for more than 18 years.  She has had a wide range of experience related to the built environment including construction management, land planning, green building design as well as training for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design professional designations.  She uses these skills, as well as her network of professional contacts, to expand the San Antonio 2030 District membership and provide guidance and support as member buildings work to achieve their energy, water and transportation-related carbon reduction goals.

Elizabeth graduated with honors from the University of Texas at San Antonio with a Bachelor’s in Business Administration (B.B.A.) degree in Construction Management.