Article originally published at ADAPT

Jacksonville’s Chief Resiliency Officer Anne Coglianese standing in the lobby of City Hall. Credit: Andrew Wiechman, WJCT Public Media

Anne Coglianese, Jacksonville’s first CRO, has been on the job since July, 2021. She came to Jacksonville from New Orleans, where she served as Coastal Resilience Manager from 2017 to 2020.

What definition of resilience are you working from?

When I say resilience, I’m primarily speaking about city resilience. I define that as the ability of city systems to adapt and thrive in the face of acute shocks like a hurricane or chronic stresses like sea level rise or urban heat.

What is a chief resilience officer (CRO)? What do they do?

A CRO is here to design resilient solutions. That means breaking down silos within city government, working with outside stakeholders and the independent authorities in and around Jacksonville that make decisions, whether that’s JEA or JTA, and making sure that everyone’s pushing in the same direction and thinking long term.

Most city departments are constrained with the here and now. A CRO has the ability, and in my perspective the luxury, to think long term and to really look at what’s the latest in science and data, where do we need to go and then what interventions need to be put in place to allow city departments to move in that direction together.

You like to use the phrase ‘resilience dividend.’ What does that mean?

It basically just tries to answer the question, how do you get multiple benefits out of any resilience initiative?

If you’re tackling flooding, how does that have human health benefits? How does that perhaps reduce urban heat? How is that providing an opportunity for a new workforce or a new economy to emerge?

I think trying to achieve as many benefits as possible through this idea of resilience dividends is really fundamental to how I view this work.

What are the biggest threats facing Jacksonville?

I think the obvious threat is water, and that can come as storm surge during a hurricane, that can be residential flooding during these wet summer rain storms and that can be tidal flooding.

I would also say that urban heat is going to become a really big challenge. The challenge with urban heat is that you can’t see it, but you can feel it, and we know that there are so many health consequences and, really, societal consequences of not addressing heat. And of course, our most vulnerable residents are at risk if we don’t get on top of urban heat issues.

The good news is that addressing urban heat is very similar to addressing flooding. Some of the same interventions can provide benefits in both arenas. More green space will absorb more floodwater, but those plants also have a cooling effect on neighborhoods. So the more we can get rid of concrete and put in permeable surfaces, like plants or semi-permeable paving, that benefits our flood-risk reduction and it also will have an impact on cooling our city, and that can have numerous benefits for residents, both financially and also for their health.

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Article by Brendan Rivers can be reached at, 904-358-6396 or on Twitter at @BrendanRivers.