My New Role at Urban Green

A letter from Russell Unger, who will be transitioning to Chief Strategy Officer as we welcome our first-ever CEO, John Mandyck. 

Dear Friend of Urban Green,

I’ve been honored to serve as Urban Green Council’s Executive Director for the last 11 years and couldn't be prouder of our impact and growth. On my first day, I was the sole employee, without an office or computer. Now we are a staff of 16 doing work across policy, research, and education (in 16 states). We’ve trained tens of thousands of building professionals, led citywide commissions and driven countless code changes, and published 26 research reports.
But, increasingly, I’m pulled away from my areas of strength: policy and strategy. And the organization and its needs have changed dramatically. Being Executive Director no longer feels like the best job for me. Plus, eventually, it’s just good for an organization to bring in fresh ideas. (Google “founders syndrome” to see how organizations can grow stale.) So, last year I approached Board Chair Scott Frank, and we agreed it’s time for Urban Green to graduate to a CEO and for my role to shift.
As you may have heard, our first-ever CEO will be John Mandyck, starting right after Labor Day. The official press release is here.
For those who don’t know John well, let me share the attributes that make him an outstanding choice to lead Urban Green into our next phase. John has indeed been involved in the green building movement since its inception (his office at Carrier was next to Rick Fedrizzi’s). He understands the real estate market and major building systems. He’s an outstanding communicator. And far from a stranger to Urban Green, John was chair of the Board of Directors from 2014 to 2016 and has served on the board for over eight years.
But to my thinking, that’s all gravy to John’s core value add: his strategic perspective from decades as a senior executive at a multinational corporation, United Technologies. It’s the sort of thinking that led John to drive UTC’s support for Harvard’s COGfx study. Many suspected, but no one had shown, that stuffy air (read: high CO2 levels) had marked impacts on cognitive function. Likewise, in his book, Food Foolish, John takes a novel look at climate change, seeing in food waste an entire country’s worth of carbon emissions—and the potential to feed hungry people through expanded refrigeration. During John’s time on the board, his insights often carried the day.
In September, I will be transitioning to the role of Chief Strategy Officer, where I will focus on launching new initiatives emerging from a fall update to our strategic plan. I will also maintain my work on the 80x50 Buildings Partnership. (And I will take a long-overdue sabbatical once John has settled in!) In the meantime, I’ll continue as Executive Director until John’s official start.
John will make a fantastic Urban Green CEO. He brings great energy and ideas, and I look forward to working with him in a new capacity come September. Hold onto your hats, Urban Green is going into overdrive!


Russell Unger 
Executive Director 
Urban Green Council