Mike Wharton is the Athens-Clarke County Sustainability Officer.
The Sustainability Office launched on July 1, 2017 as a unit of the Manager’s Office and is only the fourth program of its kind to exist in a local government of Georgia. Wharton served as the Ecological Resources Administrator from the office’s launch until being named Interim Officer and has spent more than 39 years working with sustainability, natural resources, and recreation for ACCGov.
Some projects that Wharton has been involved in with the Sustainability Office include land management and restoration initiatives such as a North Oconee River cleanup that involved over 150 volunteers from Pilgrim’s Pride, a Georgia Outdoor Stewardship grant that will provide $550,000 for outdoor recreation and habitat and stream restoration in Dudley Park, and the acquisition of more than 110 acres of greenspace for ACCGov.
These projects have not only beautified the community, but have also significantly enhanced native habitat and vital ecosystem services on more than 140 acres of ACCGov property. Wharton has also worked on community engagement initiatives that have engaged citizens, businesses, schools, and churches throughout Athens, helping to build a more sustainable urban/wildland community.
Prior to joining the Sustainability Office, Wharton headed the former Natural Resources Division of the Leisure Services Department and served as the Operations Administrator for the department. Under his tenure, ACCGov developed the first Greenway Plan adopted by a local government in Georgia.
The Sustainability Office works as a steward of public resources by promoting innovative practices and policies to reduce ACCGov’s environmental footprint, grow the local economy, and foster a thriving community by networking staff, ideas, and resources across departments and throughout the community to achieve outcomes supported by a long-term sustainability plan.