In 2014, Mayor Ed Lee appointed Debbie Raphael as the Director of the San Francisco Department of the Environment, a city agency that creates visionary policies and programs to ensure a sustainable future for San Francisco. Raphael returned to San Francisco after three years leading the California Department of Toxic Substances Control, where she launched the rollout of California’s landmark Green Chemistry Initiative and worked to protect the public and environment from toxic harm. Raphael believes that cities like San Francisco are incubators for bold action that results in meaningful change. Her approach to environmental decision-making focuses on using the best available science and robust stakeholder interaction to ensure that all voices are honored.
In 20 years of public service at city, county, and state levels, Raphael has implemented groundbreaking policies, initiatives and campaigns around toxics reduction, green building, climate action, community engagement and environmentally preferable purchasing. She graduated with honors in biology from the University of California, Berkeley, was a Smithsonian and National Science Foundation fellow, and has a Master’s degree in Physiological Plant Ecology from UCLA.