Andy Hamilton is not just an Air Quality Specialist at the County of San Diego, he’s also a Live Well San Diego Champion! His passion for his work and commitment to quality and innovation make Hamilton a valuable asset to the County’s workforce and communities he serves. Recently promoted to Supervising Air Resources Specialist, Hamilton spends much of his workday researching best practices related to planning and active transportation and policy success. This helps him develop effective solutions to challenges in the region.
“In many jobs, it’s difficult to be able to do the research,” says Hamilton. “The beauty of my position is that I have the time to keep myself well informed, which helps me really understand how to develop solutions to different problems. I usually have many issues that are in play at one time – making a pathway pedestrian friendly, adding buffered bike lanes, etc. I can help resolve these issues when I’ve had the chance to learn about and study best practices. The best success is when you bring a solution that solves many problems instead of just one problem.”
Hamilton discovered his passion for active transportation and planning after living in Boston and experiencing what it was like to live in dense, highly walkable neighborhoods with great transit. His goal has been to take what he experienced there and replicate it in other cities.
“When I lived in Boston I thought ‘It’s so much more humane to live in a place that invites people to interact’. Active transportation allows you to do just that,” says Hamilton. “A lot of people do not realize how oppressive cars have become - San Diegans want a place that is slower paced, where residents can interact free of noise and constant traffic.”
Hamilton’s first job as a planner was with a non-profit environmental group in Boston, where his primary project was the “Big Dig.” This megaproject undergrounded the chief highway that ran through the heart of the city. After his time there, Hamilton joined the County of San Diego in 1994 as an Air Quality Specialist.
“When I joined the County, there was no other job in the country like it. When I started, I was told to help communities become more bike and pedestrian friendly. I’ve spent the last 21 years doing that,” says Hamilton. “Back then we had a lot of doors slammed in our faces while presenting the idea of a bike and pedestrian friendly community. But now it has become a mantra and I am proud to have been a part of that evolution in thinking.”
Active on many associations including the American Planning Association, Hamilton works closely with the community to promote active transportation throughout the region.
“I look for projects that are ripe but need help with getting implemented,” says Hamilton. “My goal is to help facilitate changing communities – to make a positive, permanent change in the environment.”
Over the years, Hamilton has come to believe in the importance of active transportation and its benefits.
“I have learned that walking is a cure-all for everything that ails us – mentally, socially, physically, environmentally, and creating a sense of belonging in a community. There’s no prescription more effective than taking a walk at a moderate pace every day – and the best part is it’s free!” says Hamilton. “Get involved in your community organizations and planning groups and demand safer walking environments. It’s an important part of every community.”