Clarke County’s newest Planning Commissioner doesn’t take office for another two weeks but he’s already providing helpful advice to his constituents on ways to save energy and money. John Turkel has been actively spreading the word about a Commonwealth program that can help residents eliminate home energy waste and lower utility bills.
Turkel is replacing Planning Commissioner Robert Wade who is stepping down after serving on the Planning Commission since November, 2000.
“The state of Virginia is offering energy efficiency rebates, the most attractive being $250 toward home energy audits” said Turkel. “Applying for the rebate is easy, I did it myself and it was approved in 24 hours last week.”
The goal of Virginia’s rebate program is to replace older, less efficient equipment currently in use with new, more energy efficient equipment, or to upgrade existing buildings. The Commonwealth offers a rebate not to exceed $250 or the documented cost of the energy audit, whichever is lower provided that the energy audit is performed by a certified Virginia auditor.
Turkel said that the energy audit, which has to be completed within 60 calendar days from approval, helps homeowners identify opportunities to increase both energy efficiency and comfort.
“$250 typically won’t get a full energy audit from an eligible auditor” Turkel said “But I did speak to a local energy auditor named Jim Canter who is offering $250 energy audits for homes of less than 2,000 square feet.“
Several Clarke County officials including Planning Commission vice chairman Anne Caldwell and Clarke County Board of Supervisors Chairman Michael Hobert (Berryville) said that they are pleased by Turkel’s appointment to the Planning Commission.
“Jon is a very capable young man who works for Frederick County Parks as a planner and was recently appointed – effective September 15th – to serve on our Planning Commission” Hobert said. “He is very bright and is committed to engaging people in healthy lifestyles and respecting the planet. He was very active on the County “Green Advisory Committee” and spent many hours helping to develop recommendations and action steps to reduce the County’s energy use and emissions, and preserve natural resources.”
Turkel says that volunteering to serve on the planning commission allows him to fulfill a sense of obligation that he feels to the Clarke community. “In terms of duty I’ve always felt a little guilty for not stepping up to be a volunteer firefighter, they demonstrate real commitment. Being on the Planning Commission isn’t like that, but at least I can use my skill set to support the community in another way.”
Turkel first came to Clarke County as a child. Although he grew up in Connecticut he spent summers at his grandfather’s farm by the Shenandoah River. Turkel and his wife returned to Clarke County from Colorado in 2004 and began raising their family alongside the same river of Turkel’s childhood summers.
The couple’s first child, a son, joined the family in 2006.
“In the early 30’s my grandfather took the train from DC to Bluemont, rented a horse, and rode over the mountain to the Shenandoah River” Turkel recounted. “He fell in love with the area and bought Little Fox Farm, now Kent Farm II. I first came here at the age of 4 and didn’t really want to leave. Now I’m raising a family by the river, so I guess in the end I got what I wanted.”
Turkel’s childhood introduction to Clarke County likely has a lot to do with his love for the area’s natural beauty and resources. Turkel says that even though he enjoys a very active public service life he still has some time for hobbies, especially when the pastime includes enjoying the river with his family.
“I’ve dabbled in alternative fuel and gardening, but I have to say nothing beats floating down the river on a nice day or having a picnic dinner at Bears Den. I’m fortunate to have a wife that enjoys outdoor activities too. Really though the parenting thing is the prime interest at present. If we
can share positive experiences with the little guy then all is good, if notâ€¦ well, different story” Turkel said.
Professionally, Turkel is equipped to offer valuable professional skills to Clarke County’s long tradition of careful land planning. In addition to working as a, environmental planner, Turkel received a bachelor of arts degree from Gettysburg College and a master of business administration degree from Green Mountain College in Vermont.
“As with most people I’ve learned from a host of life experiences as much as anything else” Turkel said.
Turkel believes that energy conservation provides an easy way to both save money and prevent unnecessary environmental pollution before it occurs.
“Energy audits are important so a person can know where to get the most bang for their buck as far as improving efficiency and comfort” said Turkel. “Sometimes it isn’t the most intuitive item that can make the biggest difference and that’s where a trained auditor helps. With the state offering to pick up
most the cost of an audit I would personally like to see our community taking advantage of the program. Having energy efficient homes in Clarke would keep more money here and keep down all the bad stuff fossil fuel extraction and burning cause.”
Based on his experience talking to other people in the county, Turkel says that he is encouraged by the environmental awareness of the Clarke County community.
“Everyone I have spoken to in Clarke appreciates the natural beauty that surrounds this area. The challenge here is really the same as everywhere; figuring out how to balance our environmental, social, and economic needs in a way that works today and will work tomorrow” Turkel said. “An energy audit is a good idea because the energy we are using is finite, getting it out of the ground is destructive and burning it creates a lot of pollution. We need to use energy to survive and thrive but we don’t need to waste it. There seems to be a lot of relatively simple things we can do to reduce consumption.”
What does it feel like to live in Clarke County after spending summers here as a child?
“Living in Clarke fulfills a childhood dream of doing just that” Turkel said. “As far as wisdom I don’t know what it means for an adult to be living out the ambitions of his childhood self, but it seems to be working so far. As far as my thoughts on Clarke; it used to feel like we were on the edge of Appalachia, now it seems we are on the edge of DC. This isn’t necessarily good or bad, but it does feel right that Clarke has retained much of its original character.”
For more information on Virginia’s energy audit rebate program please visit: http://www.dmme.virginia.gov/de/arra-public/EnergyAudit.shtml. A list of certified energy auditors can be downloaded at http://www.dmme.virginia.gov/de/arra-public/EnergyAuditors.xls. To apply for a rebate please visit https://epm.virginiainteractive.org/HERebate.