Leading By Example: Monica Mayotte

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One of Boca Raton’s most vocal proponents for environmental reform is in exactly the right seat to make it happen—city council seat D.

Councilwoman Monica Mayotte is green in more ways than one. Not only is she one of Boca’s newest city council members, but she’s also the staunchest elected advocate for environmental reform in the city. Since her election to the council in 2018, she’s been instrumental in the hiring of Boca’s first sustainability manager, and continues to focus her efforts on protecting the city from climate change.

Mayotte was inspired to live a more eco-friendly lifestyle after she took her family to see former Vice President Al Gore’s documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” in 2006. The film, which included a graphic that depicted the state of Florida sinking underwater, “traumatized” her son, who at the time was 8 years old, and spurred her family into action.

“The way that I felt I could make him feel better was to see what we can do as a family to be on the right side of history, and what can we do to lower our carbon footprint,” she recalls. “So we started riding our bikes to school, I helped him start a ‘stop global warming’ club at school, and I had just bought this big SUV and was feeling really, really guilty about it. So we started doing things that a lot of families these days are doing—[like] no more plastic—to mitigate the carbon that we do use.”

Years later, when the opportunity arose for Mayotte to attend a Climate Reality Project training led by Gore in Chicago, she decided to make the trip—and bring along her son. Upon returning home, Mayotte decided to focus her efforts on sustainability projects here in Boca. She was enlisted by then-Mayor Susan Welchel to join the city’s Green Living Task Force, and eventually began to volunteer for the Citizens’ Climate Lobby, an organization that lobbies elected officials at the federal level for climate change legislation. Ultimately, it was her work with these sustainability efforts that spurred her to run for local office.

“I was a mentor and a speaker at a Climate Reality training, and I said to a room of about 2,000 people that I was thinking about running for city council, and I got, you know, a standing ovation,” she recounts, chuckling. “That following June I realized this is what I need to do, so that following October is when I filed to run.”

Mayotte lists water reclamation, seawall restoration, and fortification of the city’s water infrastructure as some of the ways that our local government is being proactive in its sustainability efforts, though she has even loftier goals in mind.

“I would love to see us go to 100-percent renewable energy in city operations,” she says of her dream scenario for the city’s measures to go green. “I would love to see the city commit either to the Sierra Club or to the Climate Reality Project’s 100-percent renewable energy commitments. Since we just started our sustainability program, we aren’t ready to make that commitment yet, but I’m hoping that in the next year or two we’ll get to the point where we are ready to make that commitment. … It’s a lot of work, but it’s work that needs to be done.”

Mayotte stresses that one of the most important factors to fighting climate change at the local level is cooperation between municipalities, and she thinks Boca Raton can be at the forefront of the movement. “I think we need to lead by example,” she says. “Rising waters don’t know municipal boundaries.”

Though the situation is dire, Mayotte finds hope in the residents of Boca Raton, and believes the city is trending in the right direction. “I think there’s a lot of people here who understand the issue. I get a lot of feedback in emails that are appreciating what I’m doing, so that gives me hope. There’s a lot of people that are engaged in things like the community garden and beach cleanups, so I know they understand there’s a problem. And that’s the first step in coming to a solution.

“I have hope that we can get this done. I want to make sure my children are afforded the great lifestyle that I’ve enjoyed in Florida since 1972. It’s not too late, because we have the technology to solve the climate change problem. We just need our legislators to understand this is a crisis that needs to be handled now.”

This story is from the March 2021 of Boca magazine. For more content like this, subscribe to the magazine.