Lawrence Odle
Air Quality Director, Maricopa County

Lawrence Odle’s initial field of study — wildlife toxicology specializing in rattlesnakes — would have kept him busy in Arizona. Yet, that’s not the career he chose.

Odle, the air quality director for Maricopa County, says he was a “starving senior” at the University of California at Riverside when he was hired on a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grant to set up air monitoring stations throughout California.

“That’s how I got into the field, and I just never got out,” Odle says. “I went into the enforcement arena in air quality and applied what I had learned in my environmental studies.”

During the past 30-plus years, he has been active in environmental regulation, including air monitoring, permitting, research, planning, compliance, legislative, legal and administrative in California, Oregon and Hawaii. He also has a law degree, and is a certified mediator and former registered asbestos consultant.

In one year with the California Air Resources Board, Odle says he learned more about environmental quality than he could have imagined.

“It was a highly educational time of my life,” he says. “I was exposed to a lot of administrative issues, as well as field work. It was the most concentrated experience one can get. It was an education you can’t buy.”

Eventually, Odle became interested in public policy issues and served two terms as president of the California Air Pollution Control Officers Association.

Odle, who joined Valley Forward in 2003 and now sits on its board of directors, began keeping an eye on Maricopa County air quality in October 2008.

“Mostly my heart is in the public policy development area,” he says. “I enjoy identifying what is in the best public interest in regulating environmental air quality. Sometimes there are spirited discussions. There are so many fables and facts that are mixed around air quality issues.

“I admit I’m somebody who worried for years about what kind of world we would be leaving our children,” Odle says. “I went to a Valley Forward awards program and that’s when I saw a sense of responsibility and accomplishment from the business community stepping forward and creating green programs.”