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DeBacker: White-Newsome, appointed to White House Council on Environmental Quality, is exactly who our country needs


Today, the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) announced the appointment of Dr. Jalonne L. White-Newsome, former Kresge Environment Senior Program Officer, to be the CEQ’s Senior Director for Environmental Justice.

The full Kresge Foundation team is delighted that Jalonne has been appointed to this position. She is a powerful leader with an unwavering commitment to racial justice and exactly the type of person our country needs at this level.

Jalonne is brilliant and has dedicated both her personal life and her career to advancing climate and environmental justice. She is highly respected among environmental and philanthropic leaders across the country. She is a strong advocate for action on climate change, centering equity in that work.

Several of our long-time grantee partners have been appointed to senior posts in the Biden-Harris Administration to advance policy solutions on climate change and environmental justice. Jalonne, who succeeds the talented Cecilia Martinez in this critical role, is a marvelous choice.

Core to her commitment to environmental justice, Jalonne deeply believes in the wisdom of community leaders and the importance of having their knowledge, wishes and solutions at decision-making tables.

Jalonne developed a strong and innovative grant portfolio while at Kresge, supporting leading-edge work at the intersection of climate change, water and justice. She helped to ensure Kresge funds reached environmental justice organizations and that the voices of frontline communities were represented at important policy tables.

During her time at Kresge, Jalonne launched and led the Climate Resilient and Equitable Water Systems (CREWS) initiative, which consists of more than 30 organizations working to advance solutions to climate-related storm and flood impacts on low-income communities. The CREWS initiative aims to transform urban stormwater and wastewater systems to provide reliable, equitable and innovative services to all residents.

At her recommendation, Kresge provided the first round of funding to the Water Equity and Climate Resilience Caucus, co-led by PolicyLink and the Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy. One of Jalonne’s early grants was to the US Water Alliance, which developed a framework for the water sector to address the intersection of water, equity and climate change.

Jalonne brought to Kresge and will bring to her new role a valuable array of experience – her training as both an engineer and public health expert and work experience in the private and non-profit  sectors. Jalonne’s breadth of experience allows her to understand the perspectives of people working in different sectors, and to view issues not in silos, but to instead look for connections. She most recently launched and led her own environmental consulting firm, Empowering a Green Environment and Economy. Prior to her work at Kresge, she was a policy organizer with WE ACT for Environmental Justice.

In January 2021 after President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris were sworn into office, Jalonne penned an article that was omniscient of her future role with the White House CEQ. Here is a direct quote:

“As a researcher on climate change, health and equity, I am especially hopeful for the future of our planet as the Biden Administration will bring in the largest team of climate change experts ever assembled in the White House, rolling back some of the Trump administration’s most harmful environmental decisions and laying the groundwork to protect our air and water.” – Dr. Jalonne White-Newsome

Jalonne is a wonderful and talented leader. She is exactly the type of person the country should want in this role.


Dr. Jalonne White-Newsome succeeds Dr. Cecilia Martinez as the second person to ever hold this position in the White House as President Biden has prioritized environmental justice across every level of government. In this historic role, she will advise CEQ Chair Brenda Mallory on environmental justice policy and help advance the Biden-Harris Administration’s bold and historic commitment to leverage the force of the full federal government in advancing environmental justice. Read the full press release.