Dr. Arun Jhaveri: From Bombay To Burien To…Obama?

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by Mark Neuman

We had a wonderful time catching up recently with our friend Dr. Arun Jhaveri, the first mayor of Burien.

We first met Dr. Jhaveri about a year ago, when The B-Town Blog was just “being born.”

The ensuing article lived on as the most read item on our site for many months thereafter.

He’s a fascinating man, born in Bombay (now Mumbai). He and his wife still live in Burien, and he swims every day to stay in shape.

While he’s currently “semi-retired,” he recently co-authored a book, and is being considered for a post in President Obama’s administration.

How have things been lately?, we asked Dr. Jhaveri, who served as mayor for six years, starting when Burien officially became a city in 1992.

“Never a dull moment,” he told us. “I’m supposed to be semi-retired but my sense is that as long as I am physically and mentally active I want to do something both for me personally as well as for the community and professionally.”

Dr. Jhaveri, a physicist and mechanical engineer, earned his Doctorate in Educational Leadership from Seattle University, and, early on, worked for Boeing on the development of the 727, 737 and 747 aircrafts prior to their FAA certification.

Still as scholarly and worldly as ever, he will speak at a conference in Paris, France later this month, and his book, “Carbon Reduction: Policies, Strategies and Technologies,” will be released this month as well (Fairmont Press, Georgia).

While he has published lots of technical papers and, of course, a doctoral dissertation, “this is my first formal book. It is something I believe in.”

Available now for advance ordering through Amazon.com, the book serves as a “clear, concise, succinct and practical action plan handbook,” Dr. Jhaveri told us.

He co-authored the book with long time colleague and fellow engineer Dr. Stephen Roosa.

“This is a great book for engineers, architects and decision makers at the local, state and federal levels, government leaders and practicing energy managers,” Dr. Jhaveri said. “We have done the research for them and put it together in an easily accessible manner. It is full of step-by-step recommendations to create an action plan for carbon reduction in any community.”

“Meanwhile, I have been invited by the Alliance to Save Energy, based in Washington, D.C., to speak later this month (April 2009) in Paris, France at the Energy Efficiency Global Conference,” Dr. Jhaveri told us. “I will speak to and meet energy and environment experts from all over the world. This is quite an honor and a privilege for me.”

Dr. Jhaveri is being considered for a position in the Obama Administration.

“While I am not actively campaigning for the job, (Ninth District) Congressman Adam Smith, who I’ve known for several years, has been very helpful in putting my name in the consideration process.”

The position is Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. If selected, Dr. Jhaveri would work primarily out of the nation’s capital.

“I told Congressman Smith, I am doing this not because of money or power. I want to do it as part of my public and community service and if I can help the Obama Administration with very bold actions in terms of energy, environment and sustainability, then I’m willing to do that.”

Dr. Jhaveri recently developed and completed a “holistic strategic plan for the Los Angeles Unified School District, the second largest school district in the country,” with 700,000 students, a budget of $11 billion and 800 existing buildings with 200 new ones in the design and building stages.

The plan covers energy, environment, recycling, resource conservation, sustainable development, renewable energies, use of solar and wind for the whole school district including the design and construction of new school buildings.

“I teamed up with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado with whom I’ve worked for many years,” Dr. Jhaveri explained. “The Los Angeles school board adopted all of our recommendations, and are now implementing them.”

Another opportunity recently came about quite by chance, no pun intended, in Las Vegas.

While certainly not a gambler, Dr. Jhaveri attended an energy conference of engineers, which took place at the Mirage Hotel and Casino.

“One of the speakers there was the Energy Manager for the Mirage. He’s a very progressive type of person.

“He said, ‘Arun, I want to do more (to conserve energy). Can you help me?’”

Energy costs are anywhere from 15% to 20% of the operating budget for Las Vegas hotels and casinos

“And now with the economy going downhill they are concerned about their bottom line.

“So I said to the people at the Mirage ‘Look guys, I’m surprised you don’t take advantage of your 365 days of summer.’

“I put together a plan for them to use solar power, collected right there on site, using relatively little space, and a technology involving absorption chillers, to provide energy for lighting and air conditioning.”

Dr. Jhaveri gave them the proposal and they accepted it.

“The Mirage can really take the lead on the this. The other casinos will see it’s cost effective and they will follow.

“I told them ‘if you can transform the area from Sin City into Sun City, half of your problems will be over.’ They all laughed!”

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