Read about Chris’s transition from South Carolina to Missoula:
Two months in, and the wheels are rolling. I am finally on the downhill slope on the sleep-inducing task of completing the City of Missoula’s emissions inventory for Fiscal Year 15, and am beginning to see the light. Side note: If anyone out there is suffering from insomnia, transferring over 400 energy accounts to an Excel spreadsheet is one heck of a cure. However, that light that will soon be eclipsed by the even larger community inventory, but I’m not complaining—it’s for a good cause. Although my Spotify playlists are in desperate need of updating after being repeated countless times over, I understand and accept that the yearly inventories are essential parts of a successful Climate Action Plan. These dull tasks are brightened by the realization that I am working for the betterment of the Missoula community and am supported by a fantastic cast of teammates.
That is what I enjoy most about my service. I am fortunate to show up to work every day and be surrounded by a diverse group of people committed to strategically reducing Missoula’s carbon footprint to preserve the sacred Montana environment. Firstly, I cannot speak highly enough of my supervisor, Chase Jones. Since Day 1, he has nearly overwhelmed me with generosity and kindness as he seemingly made it his goal to ensure I transitioned to Missoula life as comfortably as possible. During my first week of service, Missoula hosted its annual Bike/Walk/Bus Week, an appreciation week to recognize those who commute sustainably to work, and to encourage those who do not, to do so. During that week, we went on numerous bike rides on beautiful warm, fall afternoons so that he could show me around town and to his favorite parts of the city. If he was a salesman, selling the city, I was buying. Having Chase as my supervisor has made my transition to Missoula easier and my overall experience better. I am lucky to have him. I am also lucky to have to have the opportunity to work and collaborate with so many other renewable energy leaders in the city as well. Whether it is working with Climate Smart on paving the way to complete Missoula’s first-ever community inventory or collaborating with members of the Solarize Missoula, a project designed to incentivize residential investment in solar power, I am inspired to perform to the best of my ability because of the people around me.
As for living in Missoula, it is an interesting place. A small town, filled with hip local businesses, shops, and breweries, populated by a mix of characters: ranging from long boarding hipsters to bearded mountain men to ordinary people like me, who are simply looking to get an exploratory taste of Western frontier culture. The number of things one can do here is something I’ve never experienced before. I can accurately say that in South Carolina, it is rare to take a quick drive to the mountains, park, hike a mile, then find oneself relaxing in a warm bath-like natural hot springs, overlooking a spectacular mountain view, while simultaneously getting pelted with small hail drops to the face (Katelynn(Energy Corps member) knows about this more than anyone). Not only do I enjoy the Missoulian culture, an attitude that embraces active engagement with one’s natural environment while still preserving an appreciation for downtown urban life, but also the frontier itself is amazing. One thing I have struggled to cope with is that regardless of where one goes in Montana, a gorgeous scenic view is almost always guaranteed. Even two months in, my visual perceptions of massive snow-capped mountains, rolling hills, and gushing rivers haven’t quite set in as my reality—that this is my home for the next 9 months. Maybe it’s the puzzlingly few number of people living in this natural amusement park of mountains and wilderness that makes it ever more dreamlike, I don’t know. Whatever it is, I am not complaining and am happy to call Missoula home, if only for a short period in my life, and I can’t wait to see what the remaining months have in store.
Christopher Essman graduated from Elon University with a B.A. in Political Science. He also minored in Philosophy, Leadership Studies, and Poverty and Social Justice. His professional experience includes a year-long internship at Elon’s Truitt Center for Religious and Spiritual Life, a summer internship at Caritas of Austin, and several years as COO at his local startup landscaping business. Chris serves as the Energy Conservation and Sustainability Educator for the City of Missoula. His project work includes municipal and community greenhouse gas accounting and reporting, collaboration with Climate Smart Missoula, energy and utility tracking, benchmarking and reporting, as well as researching and presenting policy considerations.