Houston’s green building expert ‘lives and breathes his job’

By AFSCME Staff ·

For nearly 15 years, HOPE AFSCME Local 123 member Steve Stelzer has been educating Houston residents on how to make their homes and buildings more energy efficient.

An architect by training, the city’s green building expert – program director of its Green Building Resource Center (GBRC) – cares deeply about the environment and is determined to make his community and the world a healthier, better place to live.

“When we started the Green Building Resource Center, the city of Houston never had anything like that,” says Michael Howard, Stelzer’s supervisor. “[Stelzer] had actually pushed that idea all the way through to be – now – an integral part of our development community. He’s definitely one person that I can count on to get out there and get the message out to everybody. And it’s so helpful for the entire city to have someone like that on my staff.”

The GBRC is part of Houston Public Works and is housed on the first floor of the city’s Permitting Center. It includes some 3,000 square feet of display space with about 50 educational displays. Stelzer routinely offers webinars on a variety of topics related to green building.

Stelzer’s colleagues in the Department of Public Works say Stelzer is self-driven and highly motivated to make a difference in his community.

“[Stelzer] doesn’t just work at his job, he lives and breathes his job,” says Tara Tuttle, a colleague. “He’s always working around the building with projects, he’s always inviting people to do extra projects, on weekends and to volunteer their time for projects that he’s thought of.”

For his service to his community, Stelzer is a winner of our union’s Never Quit Service Award, which recognizes public service workers who go above and beyond the call of duty to make their communities better.

“My passion for nature came when I was a Boy Scout,” Stelzer says. “Boy Scout camp was heaven on earth.”

Stelzer says the last decade has brought Houston residents a growing awareness of the dangers and challenges of climate change. The devastation wrought by Hurricane Harvey to the city in 2017 and this year’s winter storm that caused major power outages and wreaked havoc in various parts of the state have been huge warnings.

Stelzer says he’s been waiting for this moment of public awareness for years and feels hopeful about what it can bring.

“Now, it’s like, ‘Wow, I’m so glad that I’ve been working on this and have my spiel down and I can get people informed now twice as quickly and easily as I could when I started this,’” he says. “And I can really get people right to the chase, really get them the resources they need, in a hurry, and I’m telling you I’m very excited about that.”

Sheila Blake, who hired Stelzer for the job but is now retired, says her community is lucky to have someone like him.

“Someone like Steve, who’s got his eye on the ball for the future, for protecting the planet and humanity in the long run … it’s good for every organization to have someone like that who pushes the envelope and is a bit of a ball carrier for some issue like environmental climate justice,” she says.

Know a co-worker who goes above and beyond the call of duty to make their community better? Nominate them for AFSCME’s Never Quit Service Award.