Council Appoints USM Alumnus as City Sustainability Officer

In January, the Hattiesburg City Council named a new sustainability officer, Nkrumah Frazier, a 2009 environmental biology graduate of The University of Southern Mississippi.

As an undergraduate, Frazier was involved with various research projects while maintaining a full-time job and having a family during his last two years. Frazier was raised on a farm in rural Jones County.

As a result of my rural childhood I enjoyed a very close relationship with nature,” Frazier said.

As I got older I began to see the need for conservation and preservation of those areas, plants and animals that I had become so fond of. This love and appreciation for the great outdoors and our more natural neighbors lead me to get my bachelor’s degree in environmental biology and to research being ‘green’ on my own.

His passion for environmental education, community outreach and environmental stewardship is a direct result of his love for the natural world and his desire to share those experiences.

Frazier was offered the job of sustainability officer for Hattiesburg for a number of reasons. In 2012 he volunteered with the Pinebelt chapter of the Gaining Ground Sustainability Institute of Mississippi (GGSIM). That year, Frazier learned that the city was investing a large amount of money on the curbside recycling program.

I knew that if something didn’t change, the city would not be able to afford to renew the contract that it had for curbside recycling with WastePro and Advanced Disposal,” Frazier said. “I tossed ideas around with other members of the steering committee for our local GGSIM chapter.”

In 2013, the GGSIM chapter hosted a series of focus groups to attempt to ascertain what citizens and volunteers could do to help improve the performance of the curbside recycling program.

I spearheaded the focus groups and invited concerned citizens, members of the Mississippi Depart of Environmental Quality, representatives from Waste Pro, Advanced Disposal and the city of Hattiesburg,” said Frazier. Once a month for six months, he and members met to discuss the status of the program, its strengths and its weaknesses.

The culmination of our efforts was the filming of a 30-second PSA encouraging the residents of Hattiesburg to recycle,” he said.  The PSA titled “Recycle Hattiesburg” aired on local television stations for a few months.

In 2014, members of the Pinebelt chapter of the GGSIM met with Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny Dupree. “Mr. Dupree shared our concern for the future of the recycling program and decided to create the Hattiesburg Sustainability Committee,” Frazier said. 

This committee would consist of various members of the Hattiesburg community and members of several local organizations such as Keep Hattiesburg Beautiful, the Hattiesburg Jaycees and GGSIM.

So far I have been managing the City of Hattiesburg’s curbside recycling program,” Frazier said. “Since the recycling program is a brand new program it has required me to invest a lot of time, effort and energy into ensuring that it is operating efficiently.”

Frazier spends much of his time delivering recycle bins and has spoken at several neighborhood association meeting.

I am very excited about the opportunity to serve the Hattiesburg community as the Sustainability Officer,” Frazier said. “Hattiesburg has an extremely bright future.”

The USM Office of Sustainability had representation on the Hattiesburg Sustainability Committee, which made efforts to advocate for the continuation of the city’s recycling program and the installation of a new sustainability officer position for the city. Frazier and Assistant Director of Sustainability at USM Halie McMinn have plans discuss how each of their sustainability initiatives can help the other. 

I imagine that such a partnership could include grant writing, alternative transportation initiatives and school education programs,” McMinn said.

Frazier is currently working on his plans for the betterment of the city’s sustainability. He has set the goal of the maturation of the city’s curbside recycling program to the point that it is running efficiently and able to operate without for significant input or management from him.

I’d also like to see a network of community gardens being successfully and sustainably maintained throughout the city,” Frazier said.

Once I am able to start branching out and working on other projects I plan to develop and implement an outreach and educational program designed to help people understand why things like having a recycling program is important.”