The Coastal Bend Air Quality Partnership (CBAQP) has been a volunteer organization for the past 30 years. The organization, which covers Nueces and San Patricio Counties, was started in 1995 by Gretchen Arnold when Corpus Christi was very close to violating ozone air quality standards set forth by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The purpose of the partnership and its activities is to keep Nueces and San Patricio County air healthy and in compliance with EPA standards.

In June, after signing a three year funding agreement with the city of Portland, the partnership is now a full 501(c)(3) organization, complete with board members, insurance, office space and soon a new website.

“There’s a team of people that have been working on this, the three of us who are serving as board members and, of course, Gretchen Arnold who has been at this for a very long time,” CBAQP Interim Board President Sarah Garza said. “This is her legacy that we’re helping to transition and so very grateful for what she has done in the community all these years and just very pleased that she is willing to transition her life’s work over for the organization and the communities to carry on.

“We also have a transition working group that is made up of industry members, government entity members, academia and community residents.”

CBAQP Executive Director Sharon Bailey Murphy added, “I am just so pleased to be chosen as inaugural executive director for a group that has been in existence for almost three decades. 

“I want you to really stress that the community has been collaborating on air quality since 1995 and so it’s our turn to take the baton.”

The board of directors was also looking for a council member to be appointed by Mayor Kathy Skurow with Portland City Council Member Zachary Albrecht accepting the position.

“It’s just an exciting, and a little bit emotional, time to see 30 years of everybody working hard together as an unfunded volunteer group to be an organization that submits your good work to the IRS and doesn’t get one question back, I think that’s just huge,” Arnold said. “And when we asked our EPA designee for our ozone advanced report input and how we can do better, he said well how do you do better than the best?

“If you can get the IRS and the EPA on your side I think that’s fabulous. I appreciate you all being here for us and being a part of our future.”

Mayor Skurow said there were a lot of accolades to give out and thanked the interim board.

“Thank you Sarah for taking that lead in transitioning from what was a volunteer groups for the past 30 years to a more formal organization as our growth becomes more and more important in our area.

“I also want to thank Errol Summerlin, who is a Portland citizen, for sitting on that transition team.

“I’m sure he’s brought some nice discussion to the interim board into the transition team,” she laughed, “so we certainly appreciate his efforts in formalizing this group.”

She also thanks Arnold for her tireless work throughout the years and giving her life to service local communities.

“You are a servant leader, no doubt,” Skurow said. “You’ve cared about everything you have done. I was actually privileged to be at the meeting when the EPA director said you can’t do any better than the best. I heard it from my own ears.

“So so when you get that kind of compliment from the EPA you know that this group is doing what they’re supposed to be doing.

“There’s just no words that I can say that thank you for everything that you’ve done. I really appreciate it and I’m sure that we will reap the benefits of your hard work for many, many years to come.”

•pgonzales@mysoutex.com•

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