Environmental Leadership Program selects Feldmark

February 05, 2003

Joshua Feldmark grew up in Running Brook in the house where his parents still live. Thinking in terms of community life comes naturally to him.

"Trying to make the place where you live better is kind of what I do. I think it's just kind of my instinct, really," he said.

In his day job, Feldmark, 27, is executive director of the Center for Environmental Citizenship, a Washington-based nonprofit that trains young people to be environmental citizens. In his other life, Feldmark is Wilde Lake's representative on the Columbia Council.

Now he will have some help merging his two worlds.

Feldmark has been selected by the Environmental Leadership Program of Cambridge, Mass., to join 19 other leaders in its 2003 class of fellows. The two-year program of retreats and other part-time activities offers training, networking and support to encourage collaboration among environmental advocates.

"From my perspective, what it does is, it brings together the strongest of the young environmental leaders from all kinds of disciplines," Feldmark said. "Not just people like me - grass-roots activists - but people from government and industry. We're in this profession that's just day-to-day fighting the daily battles, and here the people who we're going to be working with for the next 20 or 30 years [can be] in the same room together to take a step back and maybe develop some more comprehensive strategy for how we're going to protect the environment in the future."

The first retreat will be held next month; a second retreat, for three classes of about 70 fellows, is scheduled for summer. Fellows receive a stipend of $1,000 each year and can apply for small grants for local environmental projects.

Feldmark says he has not had much opportunity to address environmental issues in Columbia. In 1999, as a member of the Wilde Lake Village Board, he testified against the purchase of hazardous chemicals for use on the Fairway Hills Golf Course. The purchase went forward.

"I tell that story quite a bit in my day-to-day work now," Feldmark said, to illustrate the political process to students learning to lobby for the environment.

"What I had on my side was a lot of information and the morally right answer. ... But what I said [to students] was, `That's not relevant in the political sphere.' What would be relevant was power. Because I didn't have money or votes on my side, there was no reason for any politician to pay attention to me."

Feldmark may get a second chance soon.

"Interestingly, in response to the fox getting trapped [at Fairway Hills], a few of us council members were talking about creating an environmental policy ... that would include not just protection of animals, but [discussion of water use and] water quality and use of chemicals," he said. "The biggest facilities we have outside are the golf courses."

Feldmark's mother, Linda Feldmesser, is a teacher at Manor Woods Elementary School; his father, Howard Feldmesser, is an engineer at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in North Laurel. Feldmark lives with his wife, Jessica, in Bryant Woods, a five-minute walk from the house where he grew up.

Jessica Feldmark recently left her position on the Wilde Lake Village Board to become the special assistant to County Councilman Ken Ulman. She and her husband merged their names when they married in October 2001.

"Everyone was very supportive of it and thought it was a great idea," Joshua Feldmark said. "What I was most concerned about was my grandfather; he's traditional and in his late 80s. He told me that he thought about changing his name because he wanted to be an engineer and it was difficult for Jews to get such jobs." The word feldmesser means surveyor in German.

"I changed it because my wife's last name was Mark, and we made the decision for our marriage that was what we thought represented the biggest partnership," Feldmark said.

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