Adelman Leaves City Council, Transitions to College

Former Oberlin City Council President Heather Adelman joined Oberlin College as its new sustainability manager Monday. To avoid a conflict of interest, Adelman announced her resignation from City Council April 6 and formally left her role April 24. Last week, the council elected Bryan Burgess to assume the presidency and fulfill Adelman’s previous role.

Adelman had served as a member of the council since 2018 and as president of the council since January. Every two years, the City Council elects seven members who internally elect the Council’s leadership for that term. Adelman resigned in the middle of her two-year term, leaving the Council to find a new member and elect a new president. Traditionally, when the Council’s president resigns, the vice president serves as president until the next election. However, according to current City Council Vice President Kelley Singleton, he did not feel he had enough time to take on the position. 

“Yes, traditionally or by rule, I would normally have taken that position, but I cannot,” Singleton said. “I don’t have the time to do it. I have a full-time job and a family, two young boys. I do not have the time that the City deserves and that the Council [deserves].”

Since Singleton could not fill the position, the council held an election during its meeting last week, unanimously electing former City Council President Bryan Burgess into the position. However, Burgess explained that he is uncertain how long he will remain in the role because he is running for the State House in the fall. He is set to compete in the Democratic primary for Ohio’s 56th district’s house seat May 3.

“I’m running for the Ohio State House, and depending on how the mapping process goes … I may or may not be elected this fall,” Burgess said. “I couldn’t tell you if I’m going to be council president for the next eight months or the next 20. The City has lots of projects going on that I will gladly shepherd for the next few months.” 

Burgess is already thinking about specific proposals to rezone properties in Oberlin based on recommendations from the Oberlin Planning Commission. He also mentioned proposals to rezone Eastwood Elementary School to allow Oberlin College to use the building for academic purposes. 

Burgess is also optimistic about facilitating more interaction between College students and the Council. 

“I’m hoping that we can get more public involvement again,” he said. “Prior to COVID-19, it was common to have a full audience in the council chambers. … It’s very helpful to have public feedback, and Council has had hardly any in the past two years.”

While Burgess has started his new position as president, Adelman has entered her new role as sustainability manager at the College. 

Adelman obtained a B.A. in Environmental Studies at San Jose State University and has worked with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in San Francisco, where she focused on waste management and building community. As she transitions into her new position, Adelman is looking forward to reentering the sustainability field. 

Adelman has previously promoted sustainability at the College as the cofounder of The Oberlin Project, which focused on conservation and education in both the College and the community. With this knowledge of both Oberlin’s town and College communities, Adelman hopes to help College students create projects and pursue passions within sustainability that will benefit the larger community. 

“My understanding is that I’ll be working with and mentoring a number of interns,” Adelman said. “I am really excited to work with students not just on what the Office of Environmental Sustainability wants, but what [the students themselves] want and how those two priorities can mesh together to really come up with some powerful projects.”

Campus Energy & Resource Manager Joel Baetens is looking forward to the new perspectives that Adelman, along with other future hires, will bring. 

“Heather will be filling the position that was last held by Bridget Flynn — Campus Sustainability Manager,” Baetens wrote in an email to the Review. “Structurally, not much is changing. However, with fresh faces and new perspectives, there are great benefits.”

After Adelman’s arrival, OES will have one remaining vacancy in the assistant vice president of energy management and sustainability role last held by Meghan Riesterer.