Alumnus’ Advocacy Secures Garbage Truck To Improve Dominican Republic Sanitation

From left: Mark Wilkins, director of Solid Waste for Tampa, Mayor Jane Castor, Santo Domingo Mayor José Andújar, and Whitney Chisholm, who arranged for the garbage truck delivery.


The Dominican Republic holds a special place in my heart, going all the way back to high school when I was introduced to the future mayor of Santo Domingo. I stayed in close contact with the island for years and eventually landed a position as the city’s U.S. liaison.

It was in that role, and as a friend of Santo Domingo, that Mayor José Andújar reached out to me with a vital request. He told me about Santo Domingo’s current budget shortfalls, how the last mayor left the city in serious debt and the damage done to the environment over the years. We agreed something needed to be done — fast!

I knew their first need was going to be a garbage truck to get the trash off the streets. Using my connections and experience working with municipalities through the Lou Frey Institute, I began networking with local officials around the state. After a month of networking, Commissioner Charlie Miranda from the City of Tampa contacted me and offered aid.

Tampa has a long history of caring for the environment, specifically in its efforts to provide clean and safe water. Miranda played a big part in building that reputation, and was a huge advocate for local environmental impacts during his tenure on the Tampa Bay Water Board. We both understand the best way to keep trash out of our water is to keep it from getting there in the first place.

He offered a garbage truck slated for decommission by Tampa, and we secured it before it went to auction. As much as the commissioner helped me, we both would have been lost without his aide, Mary Bryan, and City Attorney Jan McLean, whose knowledge of the formal legal process was invaluable to this effort.

This is going to be huge for Santo Domingo. The truck is both larger and more efficient than Santo Domingo’s current models, relieving pressure in their current trash collecting system. One truck seems like it won’t make a huge difference, I know. However, this is bigger than one truck: this is part of a much larger plan the mayor is executing. The Municipality of Santo Domingo Clean Water Initiative (MSDCWI) is an effort to clear the lakes and main river around the city of the trash that has congested it for years. The clean-up has been going on since Mayor Andújar took office, but rising water levels have set back progress. There is also a current need for a tractor, well-digging machinery, and if possible, some additional fiscal help to make up for a budget that keeps getting thinner.

This is just one hardship of many. COVID-19, repeated flooding during hurricane season and consequential cuts in social spending to control government spending are all trials faced by the people of the Dominican Republic. Gestures like this donated garbage truck provide hope and assurance that the struggle does not have to be fought alone.




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