“It’s not what’s next. It’s really a continuation,” said Deputy Mayor for the Environment Fred Profeta, when asked recently about his plans after Jan. 1, 2012, when he steps down from the Maplewood Township Committee after nine years of service.
Profeta that he would not run for re-election. When he leaves office on Jan. 1, Profeta will have served three three-year terms on the Committee — four of those years as Mayor of Maplewood.
Profeta leaves quite a legacy. He will be remembered for his efforts to improve communications with the public, the construction of the new police and municipal court building on Springfield Avenue, his efforts to incorporate sustainable environmental practices into every aspect of Maplewood life, and his penchant to speak his mind — sometimes sparking controversy.
But it is Profeta's environmental legacy that is the bridge to his post-Township Committee future.
Profeta has started a new company, EcoMatters, a limited liability company with Profeta as the president and sole full-time member.
EcoMatters, explains Profeta, will be representing green business markets to the 566 municipalities in New Jersey. "I started the business to help towns with . I’ll come in and advise as a consultant, setting up green teams, getting it started and getting people engaged."
Sustainable Jersey is the statewide program, founded by Profeta and Highland Park Mayor Meryl Frank, that gives towns a rigorous certification process to meet in qualifying as sustainable communities. The idea is to bring environmentally sustainable practices into government functioning and daily life across New Jersey in a way that is consistent and measurable. Towns are asked to pledge to contract locally, improve recycling, use energy efficient light bulbs, convert roofs for solar power and more. Residents likewise are encouraged to adopt "green" practices and take pledges to increase their sustainable activities each year.
Participating towns can be eligible for grant programs as they come up.
have both received notice and awards for sustainable efforts. U.S. Senator Robert Menendez recently .
Through EcoMatters, Profeta will be representing sustainable businesses — for example, those purveying solar power, LED lighting, and energy performance contracts. Profeta will sustain his business through consulting and fees for representing those businesses to municipalities.
On Maplewoodonline and in comments on Patch, some have accused Profeta of pushing eco-friendly initiatives such as and in order to boost his resume.
Profeta says it is not so.
"I was a passionate environmentalist since 10th grade," says Profeta. He notes that a high school career aptitude test pinpointed "forest ranger" as his ideal field. Also in high school, Profeta planned a trip around the country taking his family through the canyons of California, Colorado, and New Mexico.
"We were conservationists," said Profeta.
When Profeta attended law school, he was interested in studying environmental law, "but there wasn’t any! Now it's a huge field." As a default, Profeta took up commerce law.
Profeta also says that incorporating EcoMatters while serving on the Maplewood Township Committee does not constitute a conflict of interest. "There is no conflict. I would not do anything in Maplewood until I'm off the Township Committee. If I'm doing something in Salem County, it's not a conflict." Profeta noted that he had already removed himself from the Board of Sustainable Jersey earlier this year.
Continuing the family interest in the environment, Profeta's son Tim earned a Masters in Environmental Sciences (as well as a law degree) from Duke and is now the Executive Director of the Nicholas Institute for the Environment at Duke University.
In fact, Tim's wife Tanja is also an environmental lawyer working at Duke. (Tim and Tanja have two children — Ana, 11, and Duncan, 7. Profeta's daughter Katherine is an Assistant Professor at Queens College where she teaches theater and dance. Katherine is married to Steve Bodow, the Executive Producer of The Daily Show. Katherine and Steve have two daughters — Nina, 5, and Veronica, 3.)
Now that EcoMatters is launching, will Profeta retire from law practice? (His firm Profeta and Eisenstein is located at 14 Wall Street in Manhattan.)
"I don’t know. It’s sort of my hobby. I go to the office once or twice a week. I go in to argue cases."
Profeta is also not going to leave Maplewood behind. The lifelong resident and Columbia High School graduate (Class of '57) thinks that Maplewood’s environmental leadership isn’t well enough known by its residents. "We should market to our residents and businesses. We should have businesses getting certified green. Roofs of businesses could go solar." Profeta talks of marketing Springfield Avenue as "The Green Avenue" — "I think people would love to buy at a 'green shopping center.'”
And what about those chickens?
Profeta has said that he and wife Susan would apply for a coop in their Hickory Drive backyard. Far fetched? Not at all. Profeta's family raised chickens in Maplewood in the 1940s and '50s. "It started in WWII with a victory garden and then it grew. After we stopped it, [the coop] became my fort." Profeta says the family had as many as 30 chickens at one time.
“We ate a lot of omelets!”
The Profeta family has come a long way from the town of Salle in Abruzzi, Italy, where Fred's dad Fioriggio was born in 1903 (Fioriggio became the first Fred — "just plain Fred" — once in the U.S.). The elder Profeta earned three law degrees but worked as a teacher at Central High in Newark due to the scarcity of jobs during the Depression. The elder Profeta's wife, whose family had also migrated from Abruzzi, was a beloved teacher in the South Orange-Maplewood School District who lived to 100. The Lynn V. Profeta Field at Underhill Sports Complex is named in her honor.
Like his parents, Profeta sees many years of activity ahead of him. He talked excitedly about a recent meeting with a man who is working with Toyota to use the fibrous plant kenaf to make automotive parts in place of plastic and steel.
Of his environmental venture, Profeta said, "It’s exciting and I don’t know where it will go."