A holistic approach: Gilbert works in the county’s Office of Resilience, which has people designated to work on sea-level rise, carbon mitigation, and waste reduction. “Together,” she says, “we make sure we come at it from an integrated perspective.” She acknowledges that some may be skeptical of her role because “if you work and live in air-conditioning and can afford it, you can manage heat, [and] you don’t need me.”
Inform, prepare, protect: Gilbert’s focus is on those least able to protect themselves and their families against high heat—poorer communities and Black and Hispanic people tend to bear the brunt. Her collaborative efforts to keep homes, facilities, and neighborhoods affordably cool include everything from creating programs that protect outdoor workers to planting trees that help mitigate heat-island effects.
Career path: Gilbert majored in environmental science at Barnard College in New York City and went on to get a master’s in public administration at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, focusing on urban community development. The job of chief heat officer didn’t exist back then, she says, but if it had, “I would have been really interested.” Some of the issues may have shifted, she explains, “but when I studied climate change in the mid-’80s, it was accepted science.”