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A Conversation with James Reny

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by Desi-Rae Severson, MIAQC Board Member

Jim Reny is just one of two Maine Indoor Air Quality Council Board members who has served continuously since the Council was formed in 1998.  I recently interviewed Jim Reny, who is a retired Facilities Manager for Waterville Public School. Jim shared many interesting details of his long history of being on the Board and working in the IAQ field. He talked about the challenges and rewards he experienced during his tenure on the Board, and how the MIAQC Mission aligns with his own core values.

Here’s a summary of our conversation:

Severson: Hi Jim, thanks for agreeing to talk with my today. Let’s jump right in and get started! My first question is: What is your professional background?

Reny: I’ve spent the last 28 years as the Facilities Director for Waterville Public Schools. Before that, I spent 15 years doing HVAC in commercial and residential buildings.

Severson: You are one of the original members on the MIAQC Board of Directors. What drew you to serve on the Board?

Reny: We had some issues in the schools with poor indoor air quality and I found the MIAQC to be a great resource and wanted to be involved with them right from the beginning. They had a major impact on my knowledge of indoor air quality. I wanted to bring that knowledge to my schools to improve the health and education of our students.

Severson: Can you describe how the work you did/do in your daily duties impacts indoor air quality?

Reny: As I said, as the Facilities Director, I was responsible for all the schools in Waterville. That involved construction, renovation, maintenance, and custodial, and through my involvement in the MIAQC, I learned about the major impact things like green cleaning, the importance of using HEPA vacuums, regular filter changes and the management of moisture in our buildings could have on good IAQ . We did a lot of work on mold as well, I trained my staff in methods to eliminate or minimize moisture in our facilities and the protocols to use when we had moisture intrusion and the time lines we needed to follow. We talked a lot about how our facility impacts the health of staff, students and visitors in our facilities and especially the extremely young who are more negatively affected by poor indoor air quality because of how they are developing.

Severson: How many years were you a member of the Board?

Reny: Twenty-One

Severson: During your time as a Board member, what was the most fulfilling experience that you had?

Reny: That’s a tough one. As I look back, it was probably when we started to collaborate with energy and how its use in our buildings can either positively or negatively impact IAQ. It’s really important that we consider the possible impacts on IAQ when we implement energy management policies and procedures in our facilities. It’s very important that energy management and IAQ policies and procedures be considered equal partners when being implemented in our facilities, so that we can minimize energy use and cost, but maintain a high level of IAQ in our buildings.

Severson: As a follow up to that, what was the most challenging experience that you had?

Reny: Dealing with the misconceptions that are out there as far as indoor air quality. I noticed there are lots of misconceptions about the importance of good indoor air quality, especially for our students and their environment.

Severson: How does the Mission of the MIAQC (to create healthy, productive, and environmentally sustainable indoor environments through education, communications, and advocacy) align with your own personal core values?

Reny: It reinforces to me the importance of indoor air quality. As I worked more and more, my own thought process shifted, and I saw how the importance of good indoor air quality impacted our students and staff and others who entered the buildings. It gave me a better understanding of how importance good indoor air quality really is and our mission became to provide our students, staff and visitors with the safest and healthiest educational environment we possibly could.

Severson: Do you feel your time as a Board Member was well-spent?

Reny: Absolutely! I’m proud of the time I spent on the board, even though I played a small part, since facilities was my focus. Hopefully, I was able to make more people in schools understand the importance of good indoor air quality and the impact it has on educational achievement. We tried hard to get information out to the schools through the annual conference, the seminars, the training programs and the MIAQC and Educational Plant Maintenance Association collaboration and training at the annual EPMA conferences.

Severson: Would you recommend other council members consider becoming more involved by possibly serving on the Board of Directors?

Reny: Absolutely. It gives you a whole different perspective on the importance of indoor air quality and being able to work with other members of the Board you get to draw on their particular expertise. which allows you to better understand the many factors that can impact air IAQ.

Severson: What is one key take away message you would like others to hear?

Reny: When you consider the amount of time we spend inside, either at home, school, work, shopping and even entertainment; good air quality is a critical factor for everyone so that we can enjoy life and be healthy and productive individuals.