We Are the Champions

Climate Adaptation Center Announces 2024 Climate Champion Nominees

They are David Tomasko, Jessica Meszaros, Marshall Gobuty, Steve Newborn and Jennifer Rominiecki.

By Staff January 12, 2024

Downtown Sarasota and Sarasota Bay

Sarasota's Climate Adaptation Center (CAC) will present its second annual Climate Champions Awards on Feb. 15 from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. at Michael's on East. The awards will honor environmental stewards in our community who are leading the way in adapting to and mitigating the major risks from warming temperatures, stronger storms, rising sea levels, storm surge, inland flooding and extreme biodiversity losses.

The event will be hosted by CAC CEO Bob Bunting and CAC founding director and philanthropist Elizabeth Moore, and the winners will be announced that day.

Bunting urges us all to shift from a deer-in-headlights focus on threats to the multiple opportunities ahead of us—from reaction to prevention.

“The CAC wants to change the climate conversation to one that is solutions-oriented,” he says. “These awards have been designed to showcase and celebrate the people who are leading the way to make a difference and inspiring others to follow suit. We can all make a difference if we choose to."

Meet the 2024 Climate Champion Nominees

David Tomasko, Sarasota Bay Estuary Program

David Tomasko

David Tomasko

David Tomasko is the executive director of the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program (SBEP), which is tasked with managing the water quality and natural resources of Sarasota Bay. SBEP oversees diagnostic studies on the bay’s health, developing a watershed-wide pollutant load reduction goal and other technical tasks.  It works with local, state and federal agencies and local stakeholders to develop and implement projects and programs aimed at restoring the health of Sarasota Bay, while also addressing the issues of environmental justice and climate change.

Prior to joining the SBEP,  Tomasko was an environmental consultant in both the public and private sectors, with more than 30 years of experience related to water quality assessments and the development of science-based resource management plans. His projects have led to multi-million dollar and successful restoration efforts in numerous lakes and estuaries in Florida and throughout the world. He has been published more than 60 times in peer-reviewed scientific journals and professional books.

Jessica Meszaros, WUSF Public Media

Jessica Meszaros

Jessica Meszaros

Since 2012, Jessica Meszaros has been a voice on public radio stations in Miami, Fort Myers, and now Tampa. She is currently a climate and environment reporter for WUSF and a member of National Public Radio’s Climate Desk. In her role as environment and climate reporter, Meszaros’ goal is to let community members know what’s going on in their backyard and how their neighbors are being affected. She believes that her recreational activities, including camping, hiking and kayaking, further enrich her reporting with a fresh perspective on the human experience within the natural world.

Meszaros has covered climate issues such as the increasing cost of electricity due to persistent use of fossil fuels to make energy and how that impacts local residents; red tide blooms; developments in “forever chemicals” as the federal government begins to look into how they affect drinking water; public health impacts from climate change; hurricanes; and environmental justice,  highlighting the voices of the under-served community members most impacted by climate change. 

Marshall Gobuty, Pearl Homes

Marshall Gobuty

Marshall Gobuty

Global Network for Zero advisor Marshall Gobuty is nationally recognized as a pioneer in net zero home development. He is the founder and managing partner of Pearl Homes, a builder of sustainable, energy-efficient single- and multi-family communities throughout Florida and California.

Gobuty believes that profitability, sustainability and scalability aren’t mutually exclusive, and he leverages his developments for community-wide impact, working toward solving the livability crisis by creating a model for net-zero home developments that can be affordably scaled affordably. His portfolio includes Mirabella, a community of 160 sustainable homes in Bradenton that became one of the first communities on a production scale to achieve LEED Platinum certification, as well as Hunters Point, a Pearl Homes community that in 2018 earned the world’s first-ever LEED Zero home certification for its Hunters Point model home.  Gobuty was named “Power Builder of the Year” by the U.S. Green Building Council four years in a row (2016-2019), and again in 2023. In 2019, he was named of “LEED Visionary of the Year” in recognition of his award-winning, eco-friendly design and construction. 

Steve Newborn

Steve Newborn

Steve Newborn, WUSF Public Media

Steve Newborn has been a reporter for WUSF Public Media for more than two decades, covering a wide range of issues, with a particular focus on the environment. He is particularly proud of his work publicizing the need for a wildlife corridor to connect what could become isolated patches of preserved areas, thus allowing wildlife such as the Florida panther and black bear to migrate and not become inbred. He covered the Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition on its inaugural trip in 2012, from the start at the southern tip of the Everglades through the heart of the state north to the Okefenokee Swamp. Newborn did it again in 2015, beginning in the Everglades Headwaters and stretching west along the coast of the Florida Panhandle to the Gulf Islands National Seashore at the Florida/Alabama border. In 2021 the Florida Wildlife Corridor Act was signed into law with unanimous bipartisan support by the Florida legislature. Since 2021, the legislature has gone on to budget nearly $2 billion for protecting land in the Florida Wildlife Corridor.

Newborn has also played a key role in shining a spotlight on Florida’s phosphate industry, covering community opposition to the proposed phosphate mine in DeSoto County and the Piney Point phosphate plant, which released more than 200 million gallons of polluted water into Tampa Bay in 2021.

Jennifer O. Rominiecki, President and CEO, Marie Selby Botanical Gardens

Jennifer O. Rominiecki

Jennifer O. Rominiecki

Jennifer O. Rominiecki began her tenure as president and chief executive officer of Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in February 2015. Since arriving, she has repositioned the institution as The Living Museum, securing a trademark from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and increasing membership and overall earned revenues by 128 percent and 135 percent, respectively. Rominiecki has also overseen the creation and execution of the Selby Gardens’ Strategic Plans, and an innovative Master Site Plan for which more than $57 million has been raised.  Selby Gardens recently completed construction of Phase One, which includes the world’s first net-positive botanical garden complex that generates more energy than it consumes. In 2020, she oversaw the adoption of Historic Spanish Point as a 30-acre companion campus to Selby Gardens’ downtown Sarasota location to form one organization with two bayfront sanctuaries connecting people to air plants of the world, native nature, and regional history.  

Prior to joining Selby Gardens, Rominiecki amassed 20 years of experience at major New York City cultural institutions, notably the New York Botanical Garden, The Metropolitan Opera and the Guggenheim Museum. An active member of the community, Rominiecki chair of the Board of Visit Florida, and serves on the boards of a number of organizations, including the Science and Environment Council of Southwest Florida and the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce.

For more information about the Climate Champions Awards and to purchase tickets, click here.

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