On Thursday January 18th, the Central Area Collaborative participated in the King County Sustainable Cities Roundtable – Energy Democracy: Advancing Equity in Clean Energy Solutions.  A series of training sessions, discussions and workshops dedicated to green building and climate change policy and programming for the county and cities in King CountyThe event was hosted by Patti Southard.


Denise Fairchild is the inaugural president of Emerald Cities Collaborative, a national nonprofit organization of business, labor, and community groups. She is charged with advancing ECC’s “high-road” mission to green our cities, build resilient local economies and ensure equity inclusion in both the process and outcomes of a new green and healthy economy. Denise is nationally recognized and respected for her 40-year successful track record and innovative programs in sustainable and community economic development, domestically and internationally. Her civic and political appointments have included the California Commission on Regionalism, the California Economic Strategy Panel, the California Local Economic Development Association, the Urban Land Institute National Inner City Advisor, the Coalition for Women’s Economic Development and the Los Angeles Environmental Quality Board. She has lived, worked and educated her two sons in South Los Angeles since 1977 and also served as Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s special advisor for South L.A. Investments.

Mikhaila Gonzales is a project manager with Spark Northwest and spearheads the Affordable Clean Energy for All initiative and supports Solar Plus State Energy Strategy work across Oregon and Washington. The ACE for All project aims to deploy solar energy as a solution to insulate from rising utility costs, build wealth, and transition to a fossil free economy. Spark Northwest coordinates with many local stakeholders including housing providers, community advocates, financing institutions, and utilities, to forge a pathway for affordable solar energy in Seattle and beyond. Mikhaila holds a B.A. In International Development & Social Change, M.A. in Environmental Science & Policy, Sustainable Building Advisor Certification, and has participated in the Fulbright Fellowship, Asian Pacific Islander Community Leaders Program and Environmental Leadership Program. She enjoys growing, cooking, eating and learning about food.

Dennis Comer is the Program Manager for the Central Area Collaborative, responsible for managing the Only In Seattle Grant Program for the Central Area Neighborhoods. Mr. Comer is also a member of the Central Area Land Use Review Committee (LURC) and serves as the small business representative. Mr. Comer was a member of the City of Seattle Commercial Affordability task force. Mr. Comer is a retired Army Officer and is currently employed with the Department of Homeland Security

Steve Gelb (moderator) is the local Director for the Seattle Emerald Cities Collaborative. Steve began his career in the outdoor industry where he held leadership positions in business development and directed product development teams at Eddie Bauer and JanSport. He redirected his career to help improve the environment and make our society more equitable by helping to found SustainableWorks, a residential energy efficiency program in Washington State, and served as its Executive Director. While there, he helped pioneer a community based model with a one-stop-shop that retrofitted over 500 homes. SustainableWorks pioneered High Road Workforce Standards in the residential energy efficiency sector. With Emerald Cities Seattle he has partnered with the City of Seattle on a High Road Agreement for residential contractors and a Community Workforce Agreement for commercial contractors that insures quality jobs and opportunities for the apprentices and those under-represented in the construction workforce. He has also helped create programs to bring energy efficiency and renewable energy to non-profit owned affordable housing.  Steve holds a BA in Government from Cornell University.


Patti Southard is the program manager for “GreenTools” green building program in King County Washington. At King County Southard runs the Sustainable Cities Program which focuses on coordinating all of King County’s 39 cities on built environment and climate related policies. In addition Southard provides technical assistance for the County’s LEED, Living Building Challenge and Built Green initiatives. Southard has led the GreenTools program as a two time Harvard Bright Idea Award and recently received Governor Jay Inslee’s Solar Community Award for the Regional Code Collaboration which she co-chairs with the Kathleen Petrie, City of Seattle.