We at RPA were saddened to hear of the passing of long time friend and supporter of our work on Long Island and throughout the region, John Waffenschmidt. John’s and RPA’s paths crossed well-over a decade ago when he was highly recommended and joined our Long Island committee. Given his role as Covanta Energy’s point person for community affairs, it was a natural fit. Covanta operates waste-to-energy facilities throughout the region and across the country, and John was the ideal messenger for conveying their knowledge of waste management and energy production – and the infrastructure needed to support them.
I got to know John well in my years as RPA’s Long Island Director. For those of us who had the pleasure of knowing him, it was clear that John had a passion for learning. His knowledge ran deep and he was generous in sharing all he had learned on topics ranging from the latest engineering around scrubbers to new ways to remove trash from water to insights on environmental justice. A fixture at RPA meetings and events, one knew they always had a friendly face in the crowd to engage with, to learn from and yes, to be pushed by. John understood well the influence that RPA has to advance good ideas, smart policies and wise investments and never let an opportunity pass without some good advice for us. In fact, John was an early promoter of the idea that RPA should focus more on energy infrastructure than we had historically. As the director of our Energy and Environment program today (renamed in 2013), I’m gratified to know that John’s fingerprints are all over the work our team does.
While his departure was sudden and unexpected, the legacy of John’s knowledge, work and good deeds live on. We at RPA take a moment to observe his passing, and – as I’m sure he’d urge us to do, – continue to work on the issues for which we shared great passion.