Winston Churchill once said, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”
Mike Burke established a nice life with a highly successful career as a “financial turnaround” CEO in the energy industry. Tesoro Petroleum was one of four multi-billion dollar energy corporations that benefited from his leadership.
But Mike will tell you that he has obtained far greater satisfaction by what he has given in community service in Houston and San Antonio over the past 25 years. That service has included volunteer leadership of the Boy Scouts, YMCA, American Red Cross, United Way, VIA, SAMCO, medical foundations, mayoral initiatives, university advancements, and K-12 educational reform.
Mike has an especially impressive track record of launching vital new community organizations.
In Houston, he was the founding chair of the American Leadership Forum and on the founding boards of The Center for Houston’s Future and the Houston Technology Center. In San Antonio, he served as a founding board member of the Masters Leadership Forum.
Many consider the establishment of the San Antonio Clean Technology Forum in the spring of 2008 as one of his greatest community contributions.
Based on his career, Mike recognized the enormous importance of energy issues and their ties to the region’s future economic development as well as environmental issues and their link to the region’s quality of life. He also knew that in South Texas, water also is of paramount importance.
Through extensive readings after his formal “retirement” from corporate life, he gained an even deeper and broader knowledge of the advances in applied technology and the true, total costs of various sources of energy.
Mike realized that when it came to potential alternative energy source options, energy and water conservation possibilities, and air and water quality issues, there was much to learn and much to share of what he had learned.
Mike was impressed with the congeniality and collaborative nature of San Antonio’s regional leadership. San Antonio worked well, and it worked particularly well together: military with civilians, private enterprise with the public sector, businesses with educational institutions, and environmentalists with economic development forces.
In establishing the Clean Tech Forum, Mike’s vision was to create a catalyst to help inform, educate, and mobilize community and regional leaders from very diverse sectors to enlightened action. The idea was not that solar energy, wind power, electric cars, or even water conservation was the answer – rather they were all part of serious considerations to an answer.
The idea was to develop a platform to help regional leaders and concerned citizens become more aware, learn, consider options, and get involved. The instruments of learning were small meetings, medium-sized seminars, thousands of articles shared electronically, and eventually major forums that became prime-time television productions. The approach was to do everything possible to be apolitical, unbiased, authoritative, fair, and balanced.
Over the past five years, the Clean Tech Forum has made enormous contributions to our community. Former Mayor Phil Hardberger has said that its value cannot be overstated. There have been 27 seminars and Forums, ten of them considered of significant importance. Every major forum, seven so far, has resulted in a sellout of almost 500 individuals and typically with the audience filled with leaders from throughout the region. These larger forums have been broadcast in primetime by KLRN/PBS (four stations throughout the State) and each has generated a front-page San Antonio Express News headline the day following the event.
A key reason for the tremendous success of these forums is Mike’s selection of Robert Rivard as the Moderator for every program. Rivard has created a format for the panel discussion that is akin to “ease dropping” on a high level, important discussion among, knowledgeable, professional, responsible participants. Typically the audience is captivated.
Topics of past forums have included the importance of sustainability as an issue in the mayoral race, the investment decision regarding expansion of the South Texas Nuclear Facility, CPS Energy’s decision to launch a bid for a massive 400 megawatt solar project, critical water issues, and the responsible and sustainable development of the Eagle Ford Shale.
Forums over the past two years have produced top quality, highly informative program booklets and offered exhibits and displays that are entertaining and educational.
Many believe that the upcoming Energy/Water Nexus Forum on Oct. 15 at the Historic Pearl Stable will be the best and most valuable to date. The program will be unprecedented given the collective importance of the panelists: Mayor Julián Castro, County Judge Nelson Wolff, Robert R. Puente, Doyle N. Beneby, and Texas Rep. Lyle Larson. Energy is very important, water is critical, but few are aware of the crucial nature of the Energy/Water Nexus. The Forum will go beyond the day’s headlines and explore longer-term water and energy decisions elected officials and utility leaders will face n the coming years.
The October 15th event will include the presentation of the second annual Water for Life Award. Recognition will be given to an individual in the Greater San Antonio region who has made a substantial and significant water-related contribution to the quality of life in our community. The 2012 recipient, Robert Gulley, will be a hard act to follow, but the nine nominees for 2013 are all deserving recipients of the award. This is a Forum not to be missed.
Scott has worked for 20 years in project finance and management on clean energy and sustainability projects in the U.S. and Mexico. He worked for 9 years at the North American Development Bank before starting a boutique consulting company, Green Hub Advisors, LLC, focused on renewable energy and sustainability projects. Since 2012, he served as the Interim Executive Director for the Mission Verde Alliance, which hosts the San Antonio Clean Technology Forums. Link to more details at: www.linkedin.com/in/storment2work
(Full disclosure: Since leaving his position as editor of the Express-News in 2011, Robert Rivard has received a fee for helping organize, plan and moderate Clean Tech Forum events.)