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Building a bridge to true community: EGLE's Clean Water Public Advocate ready to implement plan in 2020 that improves communication, transparency

Graphic of 2020 Strategic Priorities of the Office of the Clean Water Public AdvocateNinah Sasy, Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy's (EGLE) Clean Water Public Advocate, laid out her plans for the coming year at a recent luncheon. A new and more responsive system for logging and responding to drinking water complaints from residents are among her 2020 goals, all of which revolve around better communication and transparency.

Before coming to EGLE, Sasy had worked in state government in a variety of roles that prepared her well for working on clean water issues.

She started working at the State of Michigan with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Bureau of Laboratories, where she enjoyed developing emergency response plans for the Chemical Threat Laboratory Response Program. Then, as the grant administrator of the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs- Michigan Energy Assistance Program, she ensured that energy assistance funds were equitably distributed to families in need across Michigan and that the grantees distributing the funds were in compliance with state and federal laws. She then returned to MDHHS, as immunizations manager focused on increasing Michigan's immunizations rate. There, she enjoyed working with local partners to assess resources needed to successful serve Michigan families. Lastly, before coming to EGLE, she served as a senior strategist with the DHHS and the Michigan Public Health Institute (MPHI), where she developed and led several statewide initiatives aimed at reducing maternal and infant mortality rates in Michigan.

As a senior strategist, she worked with stakeholders ranging from health systems, health insurance providers, local non-profits and families that were directly impacted by maternal and infant mortality. Throughout her career, she's gained experience developing strong collaborative multi-sector relationships and fostering community engagement to help shape state initiatives.

Her diverse work history has prepared her well for her new task at EGLE. "Overall, I learned the important of collective impact to develop strategic priorities and achieve long-term goals," she notes.

The Flint native also understands the importance of improving communication and transparency with communities. She cites her personal experience after the premature birth of her son six years ago, when she spent long hours in the hospital "not getting answers."

This year, her focus is on implementing a plan that standardizes the drinking water complaint process, piloting an online drinking water complaint system, making sure information given to communities meets their needs, and issuing an annual accountability report.

"I will be working with Michigan residents to rethink the way that EGLE engages communities," she said. "I can't express how important it is that people know about the great work that we do here at EGLE. I'm excited to be another channel to share our work with the community while also ensuring that our work is informed by the community. I want to build a bridge to true community engagement."

In addition to her role at EGLE, on January 17, Sasy began serving as an advisor, to the City of Flint, providing strategic direction on the health services available to residents.

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