Member Interview – Kerry Parker, 2/2019

courtesy of Ruth Abbe
Kerry Parker, of Alameda’s Public Works Department, holds a sign as Samantha Sommer with ReThink Disposable and “Bag Monster” look on during the 2017 Art & Wine Faire.

Program Specialist II, City of Alameda Public Works Department, hired in 2003
In an island city with a small staff, I do a bit of everything that has to do with trash and recycling. As many are aware, I now find myself an officer of the straws and plastic foodware police (armed with reusable straws); and as the coordinator of Coastal Cleanup Day for 9 years running, this just feels like the closing of a loop. I am the designer and implementer of myriad programs that range from untwisting difficult accounts with ACI – Alameda County Industries, to C&D project monitoring, to managing used oil collection in Alameda’s marinas, to greening city offices via the Green Business Program. For several years a few of us – including NCRA VP Jessica Robinson, performed “The Lunch Monitors” to assemblies of Alameda students to show them how to recycle their lunches properly.

I have a BA from UC Santa Cruz in Sociology and Women’s Studies, which I received while working full time as a Montessori teacher. I have certificates in Zero Waste Principles and Practices, and Managing Recycling Systems from SWANA, I took a whole bunch of trash 101 courses from CRRA eons ago and am a USGBC LEED Green Associate.

My earliest defining moment was my personal tour of Davis Street Transfer Station 12 years ago with Rebecca Jewell. That day of looking at how people tend to sort their stuff, I learned they don’t – much – and that made a huge impression on me. Also, RJ’s use of f-bombs was eye-opening.

More recently, I realized that the impossible can happen as I followed a group of 3 brilliant Alameda High School students into the bubble tea shops of Alameda, and watched them influence the shop owners to use less single-use plastic by incentivizing reusable bottles and steel boba straws. The students pointed at me when they said, “if you remain out of compliance, your business could receive fines.” I nodded authoritatively.

I am an Oakland native and have tons of friends and family all over the area. I love the beach, playing with my dog Butternut, and I can crochet anything. I’m currently trying to figure out how to crochet a curbside cart. Those edges, tho.

What would people be surprised to know about you? I was a Montessori pre-school teacher for 10 years.

What inspires you? Kids. Example: The kids that wrote letters to the city council to ask that plastic straws be restricted are my heroes.

If you could vacation anywhere in the world where would you go? I have been dreaming of a trip to Easter Island to see the Moai, or giant stone heads. I think it would be breathtaking.


Book: Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy. I am an avid science fiction/dystopic novel reader, but this one is feminist utopian – and I love it. Especially significant is the discussion of colorful, fluffy and semi-transparent clothes created for party-goers called “flimsies” that you simply throw in the compost after the party. If textile recycling were only so easy…

Restaurant: I am a foodie, and am super sad to hear that Oakland’s Camino closed because it was a favorite. I heard they have another restaurant called The Kebabery, so now I have another restaurant to check out!

Person: Barack Obama

Recycled Product: I am really in love with the custom receptacles that CleanRiver makes – out of 95% post-consumer HDPE. I suppose that sounds geeky.

Song, Movie or Show: The Book of Mormon

Technology: Any software that helps me get my job done. I love tech.

Time Management Technique: I am a slave to my Outlook appointment calendar. If it’s not on the calendar, it’s not happening.

If you could invite any three people to dinner – dead or alive, who would you invite and why?;

Oh shoot, I just want my NCRA friends to come over for dinner (you know who you are!). Any celebrity alive or dead would make me too nervous and I’d clam up.

Question of Your Choice: What’s my dream job? Solid Waste Manager of [Insert City Name Here]. 😉