Former DEP Secretary Valenstein joins The Water School at FGCU

Reporter: Stephanie Byrne
Published: Updated:
Noah Valenstein

Florida Gulf Coast University announced Noah Valenstein, J.D., as the first presidential fellow in water policy for The Water School.

This appointment comes after Valenstein served as Florida’s chief resiliency officer and nearly four years as secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. His new role at FGCU began Aug. 7.

“To be able to imagine what students get to do to start their career at a place like this is something I’m jealous of,” Valenstein said.

He added, “I get to be part of the exciting work here at FGCU. It’s amazing that you’ve got this pillar right behind us on the campus showing how important water is not just to the state of Florida, but to the learning going on here.”

In addition to his work on behalf of governors Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis, the former secretary has served as the executive director of the Suwanee River Water Management District. He also brings more than 10 years of combined governmental experience to FGCU.

“When Noah left the DEP, we saw a wonderful opportunity to include him as part of our team in The Water School,” said Greg Tolley, Ph.D., executive director of The Water School at FGCU. “Noah’s experience serving two consecutive governors as the secretary of DEP will help us advance the agenda of The Water School across the state. He will also help us focus our efforts on issues related to water policy.”

“Since it was announced 2 1/2 years ago, The Water School at FGCU has worked to find solutions to our state’s water issues,” said Valenstein. “I’ve watched this program come into its own over the last few years, and I want to be part of the good work happening here.”

Although this is the start of Valenstein’s employment with FGCU, it’s not his first visit to the Southwest Florida university. About two months before the launch of The Water School in 2019, Valenstein was alongside DeSantis at FGCU’s Vester Field Station when the governor unveiled the state’s new plans to invest in water quality. Since then, Valenstein has worked closely with faculty members including Mike Parsons, Ph.D., a member of the state’s Blue-Green Algae Task Force.

“Being a presidential fellow gives Noah much flexibility,” Tolley said. “In addition to teaching courses, I look forward to his help establishing greater collaboration with The Water School across the state. His assistance in bringing greater resources to Southwest Florida will help The Water School make even bigger impacts on the region.”

Among Valenstein’s first projects for The Water School at FGCU is working with Mike Savarese, Ph.D., to advance and support the Southwest Florida Resiliency Compact. The compact is an FGCU-facilitated effort to create synergy around climate change between Southwest Florida counties and municipalities. Valenstein is also slated to represent The Water School as a keynote speaker at the American Water Resources Annual Conference in November.

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