Austin Blackmon, the city’s chief of energy and the environment who has shepherded Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s green energy policies over the last four years, is leaving City Hall.
City officials confirmed Wednesday that Blackmon has taken a job in the private sector in the San Francisco Bay area, to lead product development and growth efforts for a clean energy technology firm. Blackmon previously worked in California before he joined the Walsh administration in 2014, in the mayor’s first year in office.
He will be suceeded by Christopher Cook, the commissioner of the Boston Parks Department, who will continue in that role as well.
Blackmon was perhaps one of the city’s most visible Cabinet-level chiefs, carrying out the mayor’s vision on green energy and climate change resiliency. He helped the city work toward its goal of going carbon-neutral by 2050 and engineered Boston’s efforts to rejoin the Paris climate deal after President Trump withdrew.
Most recently, Blackmon coordinated a day-long International Mayors Climate Summit at Boston University, where Walsh announced an effort to team up with cities nationwide to collectively buy renewable energy.
And yet under his leadership, the Walsh administration has been criticized for failing to do more — for instance delaying more stringent building rules and not participating in a green-energy buying proposal for city residents.
In a statement, Cook praised Blackmon “for his leadership,” and said he was looking forward to implementing the recommendations of the Climate Ready Boston report that he helped prepare.
“Boston is a beautiful home, I look forward to building a more sustainable and resilient future for its children,” said Cook, who as a Cabinet chief will oversee the Inspectional Services Department, the Environment Department, and the Parks and Recreation Department, where he will remain as commissioner.
Blackmon said he was thankful for his work in Boston but, though he praised Cook and his ability to “implement the next phase of Boston’s climate work.”
Walsh also named a new executive director of the Office of Fair Housing and Equity: William Onuoha, the assistant commissioner and director of housing in the city’s Inspectional Services Department, which enforces the state sanitary code and habitable living conditions.
“William’s record of public service and his deep understanding of the needs of constituents are evidence of his dedication and commitment to the people of Boston,” said Walsh. “I look forward to William taking the helm of the Office of Fair Housing and Equity, and I am confident in his leadership to continue to create greater equity and access for all of our Boston residents.”
As chief, Cook will carry out the city’s visions under a Climate Ready Boston initiative, to help the city address rising sea tides that could flood neighborhoods, as well as Greenovate Boston, the city’s community outreach initiative on sustainability. He will begin the new role in July.
Meanwhile, as commission of the Parks Department he will continue to oversee the more than 2,600 acres of neighborhood parks, playgrounds, tot lots, athletic fields and urban wilds. The Department also oversees three active cemeteries, 16 historic grounds and two golf courses.
Cook received his master’s degree in public administration from Suffolk University, and a bachelor’s in English and theater from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He lives in West Roxbury with his wife, Aine, a Boston Public School teacher, and his two daughters Saoirse and Roisin.Milton J. Valencia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @miltonvalencia.