An Incoming Tide: Introducing the New Director of the Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed
By Sandra Meola, Director of the Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed
Starting in June 2018, I am delighted to announce that I have joined the Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed (CDRW) team as Director. I join CDRW with several years’ experience in coalition building, communications, and policy strategy - a skill set I'm excited to utilize with the Coalition! I look forward to meeting with partners to talk through priorities and goals, but until then, here is a little bit about myself and how I came to work for the Coalition.
I began my career at an energy consulting firm and later transitioned to NY/NJ Baykeeper, a clean water advocacy organization, where I served as Policy and Communications Director. I successfully coordinated coalitions working on furthering water quality testing, enhancing bi-state oyster restoration, improving stormwater management, and ensuring the protection of open space and threatened urban state parks. I was elected Co-Chair of Newark Doing Infrastructure Green, a coalition of community stakeholders advocating for green infrastructure strategies to reduce flooding and improve local water quality throughout the City of Newark, NJ.
I am particularly proud of spearheading a plastic pollution campaign during my time at NY/NJ Baykeeper. In 2014, I learned that plastic microbeads were invaders in popular personal care products, including toothpastes and facial scrubs. From there, my passion for preventing plastics from entering local waterways was born, along with a campaign consisting of research, advocacy, and education. The campaign was successful in furthering bi-state policy initiatives and raising awareness among elected officials, stakeholders, and residents. I was honored with an Environmental Champion Award from the US Environmental Protection Agency for these efforts in 2016.
Prior to stepping into the professional world, I earned a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and History and a Master’s degree in Public Policy with a focus in environmental policy, both from Monmouth University in West Long Branch, NJ. I am also a member of Lead NJ’s 2017 graduating class where I analyzed the connections between various policy topics.
Reflecting on my educational and professional background reminds me of why and how I chose this road. My passion for water and wildlife goes as far back as I can remember. Growing up, I spent my summers at my grandparents’ small motel in Cape May County. We spent many afternoons along Delaware Bay enjoying the beaches, fishing, and guarding our lunch from insatiable gulls! Cape May was strikingly different compared to my home town in Passaic County, bordering the heavily contaminated Passaic River. My grandfather often reminded me that as a kid, he enjoyed fishing and swimming in a much different Passaic River. It was hard for me to believe, given that the Passaic River I've known is decorated with swimming and fishing advisories. As a child, I vowed to make a difference and improve our environment for wildlife and future generations. That goal stuck with me through my adult life and here I am, thankful to continue pursuing it with you.
Again, I am thrilled to be representing CDRW and look forward to furthering the Coalitions’ policy priorities, breaking the green ceiling, and uniting the region through effective partnerships. Onward for a protected and preserved Delaware River Watershed!