In a national network of nearly 100 Clean Cities coalitions, local coordinators form a sturdy backbone that supports community-based partnerships for advancing affordable, domestic transportation fuels and technologies.

On Tuesday, August 11, the critical role of Clean Cities coordinators was recognized with the induction of two into the Clean Cities Hall of Fame: David Keefe of Greater Rochester Clean Cities and Richard (Dick) Cromwell III, previously the coordinator for Coachella Valley Clean Cities Region.

Clean Cities Director Dennis Smith and U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s Vehicle Technologies Office Technology Integration Program Manager Mark Smith made the announcement on the first day of the annual Clean Cities Coordinator Training Workshop, which was hosted virtually this year. Inductees into the Hall of Fame are known as ambassadors for alternative fuels and champions for fuel economy, who pave the way for a new transportation future.

A council of coordinators also presented Ann Vail of Louisiana Clean Fuels with the Benjamin Watson Inspirational Award, which is given once a year in honor of a long-time coordinator who enriched the Clean Cities coalition community with his spirit and engaging personality.

The three award winners helped their coalitions achieve remarkable results in 2018, together accounting for an energy use impact of over 15 million gasoline gallon equivalents through alternative fuel vehicles and energy efficiency technologies.

Dick Cromwell, Coachella Valley Clean Cities Region (posthumous award)

A well-loved and respected figurehead in the world of alternative fuels, Dick Cromwell left a legacy in the transportation landscape of southern California and across the nation more broadly.

“His vision was clear. His conviction was unshakeable,” reflected Catherine Rips, managing director at the California Hydrogen Business Council who worked with Cromwell for nearly 25 years. “The man knew what he wanted to do and why.”

Although Cromwell passed away on February 17, 2020, at the Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs, California, his spirit and contributions live on through the innumerable projects and partnerships that continue to benefit the communities he served.

A Transportation Pioneer—Supported by his confidence and experience in the mission and approach of Clean Cities, Cromwell was frequently called upon to brief lawmakers in Washington, D.C., on clean air issues.

Cromwell helped bring about many firsts in fuels and advanced vehicles for the Coachella Valley region of California. As the director of transportation and eventually the CEO of SunLine Transit Agency, Cromwell led the charge to convert the agency’s entire fleet from diesel to compressed natural gas, the first public transit agency to do so anywhere in the nation. He went on to help establish the nation’s first public hydrogen station through a partnership with Schatz Energy Research Center and private industry, setting a precedent that put his community at the forefront of zero-emission vehicle technologies.

But perhaps more than anything, Cromwell treated his interactions with other people with care, dedicated to enabling agencies, companies, and organizations to realize the benefits of alternative fuels.

“Dick was an entrepreneur, a lover of people, and a lover of service,” said Lauren Skivers, CEO and general manager for SunLine Transit Agency. “He spent his life in the clean fuels and transportation world.”

David Keefe, Greater Rochester Clean Cities

With nearly 25 years’ experience helping fleets and stakeholders realize the benefits of clean fuels and vehicles, Keefe has become an influential figure in his regional transportation community of upstate New York.

Keefe has been the coordinator for the Greater Rochester Clean Cities coalition since 2007. But his involvement in clean transportation goes back to 1995, when he worked as director of fleet services for the City of Rochester.

“David is well known for his interest in collaboration and is always eager to help other coordinators,” said Erin Russell-Story, regional manager of the Clean Cities Northeast Region.

Driving Real-World Impact—Keefe (left) presents a certificate to Chris Modesti, senior vice-president and Chief Operating Officer for Sweeteners Plus, for the company’s role in an effort to improve air quality around Rochester, New York. Photo by Greater Rochester Clean Cities

The people who work with Keefe point to his collaborative spirit—his eagerness to be a team player—as key trait that has helped him excel at creating opportunities in the common pursuit of the benefits of alternative fuel vehicles.

The real-world impact of these opportunities is broad.

Under Keefe’s watch, the coalition spearheaded an effort to secure federal funding to help finance 62 propane and compressed natural gas vehicles, which helped reduce ozone precursors in the Rochester, New York, metropolitan area. He has also helped Monroe County build a resilient network of alternative fueling stations that dispense an array of fuels, including biodiesel, ethanol, compressed natural gas, and propane. Most recently, Keefe led efforts to develop an electric vehicle charging station plan for the entire Genesee Region, which highlights gaps in public infrastructure as the region establishes a comprehensive charging network.

Benjamin Watson Leadership Award—Ann Vail, Louisiana Clean Fuels

Ann Vail’s inspirational energy, passion, and skill at overcoming challenges led her fellow Clean Cities coordinators to select her for the Benjamin Watson Inspirational Award, which recognizes coordinators who embody the heart and attitude of Benjamin Watson.

“Ann is the kind of person who is ready to help at a moment’s notice,” wrote one colleague when reflecting on the influence of Vail, who is the executive director and coordinator for Louisiana Clean Fuels. “She is always ready with a warm smile and a genuine willingness to help.”

By sharing opportunities for growth and collaboration outside her own coalition, Vail—a Hall of Fame honoree herself—manages to elevate the entire network.

To help get the word out on online learning opportunities in 2020, for example, Vail took the initiative to coordinate webinars among coalitions that keep stakeholders across the country informed and engaged. That effort has since been enthusiastically embraced by coalitions from around the nation, taking shape as what Ann calls a “master calendar” of Clean Cities webinars, a one-stop-shop for promoting engaging events from across the network.

“Ann consistently seeks ways to overcome challenges and barriers, and share her successes for the benefit of all,” said another anonymous nominator. “She truly epitomizes the heart of Benjamin Watson and the spirit of Clean Cities!”

Visit the Clean Cities Hall of Fame to learn more about these and previous honorees.