Mayor names Tepfirah Rushdan new director of sustainability

  • Appointment effective April 12; Current sustainability director Jack Akinlosotu leaving to take on a new role
  • Will lead implementation of city’s solar neighborhood project, as well as other Detroit Climate Strategy initiatives
  • Rushan’s portfolio also will include her existing Urban Agriculture work 

Mayor Mike Duggan announced today he has named Tepfirah Rushdan the City’s new Director of the Office of Sustainability.  She will replace current director Jack Akinlosotu, who will be leaving on April 12 for a new opportunity, continuing his work in climate change and sustainability.   

Rushdan has served as Detroit’s first-ever Director of Urban Agriculture since September, where she has worked to encourage urban farming by improving city policies, streamlining process and reducing red tape.  A longtime community farming activist and resident of Detroit’s Green Acres neighborhood, Rushdan previously served as co-director of Keep Growing Detroit, an organization that helps to support urban farming through educational programs, and by growing and distributing starter crops to community gardens and households to encourage the consumption of locally-grown fruits and vegetables.  Rushdan has also held a seat on The Detroit Food Policy Council and served as the director of Urban Agriculture for The Greening of Detroit.

“Tepfirah’s life’s work has been environmental stewardship and with her outstanding leadership skills, she is the perfect person to lead our sustainability office forward,” said Mayor Duggan. “She already had become deeply engaged in our solar initiative, exploring potential agricultural uses of land within the solar arrays.” 

As Rushdan prepares to transition into the role of Director of the Office of Sustainability next month, she will help lead the process of selecting a new Director of Urban Agriculture to continue that important work. The new Urban Agriculture Director will report directly to her. 

In her new role, Rushdan will be the point person leading and coordinating the City’s priority action steps within the four main goals of the Detroit Climate Strategy:  

  • Transitioning to Clean Energy 
  • Increasing Sustainable Mobility 
  • Accelerating Energy Efficiency and Reducing Waste 
  • Prioritizing Vulnerable Residents and Adapting to Change 
    • Reducing Flood Risks 
    • Protecting from Extreme Heat 
    • Improving Air quality 

A major immediate focus for Rushdan will be the city’s solar neighborhood project, which will replace up to 250 acres of vacant, blighted land in up to six neighborhoods with solar arrays that will create enough clean energy to power all of the city’s 127 municipal buildings.  The city is in the process of selecting the final solar array areas from eight remaining applicant neighborhoods and Rushdan will work closely with residents in the solar neighborhoods and the vendors that will be installing the arrays.  

“Detroiters are creative and resilient, and I believe we have real potential to become a national leader in municipal sustainability. I’m humbled to have the opportunity to steward our city’s efforts at a very exciting time in this journey,” said Rushdan. “Mayor Duggan has made sustainability and climate action a priority in his administration, and I appreciate the confidence he has shown in me.”   

In his year with the City, Akinlosotu completed and published the first Detroit Climate Strategy, and worked closely with City Council on the development of the City’s new Benchmarking Ordinance. The new ordinance requires all municipal buildings, as well as commercial and multifamily residential buildings larger than 100,000 square feet to annually report their energy and water usage by the end of 2024.  Smaller buildings will be added to this requirement in 2025.   

“Jack has helped lay the foundation for the work that will continue for years to come. We greatly appreciate his contributions to creating a more sustainable Detroit,” said Chief Strategy Officer Trisha Stein, who leads sustainability efforts in the Mayor’s Office.  

Tepfirah Rushdan pic
Tepfirah Rushdan