While most folks would leap at an opportunity to get away from the Valley during these triple-digit summer days, Jeff Kasle is more interested in sticking around so he can continue strengthening his ties to his new community. His work as a project engineer focused on sustainability for Ameresco Inc., however, sees him traveling frequently, often to locations as remote as Fairbanks, Alaska.
Having lived most of his life in the Northeast — he grew up in a suburb of Boston and attended Lehigh University in Pennsylvania — Kasle decided to make the intercontinental leap after visiting his parents, who’d recently moved to Tucson. He liked the desert and being close to his family, so when he was nearing graduation and weighing several job offers, he opted to go with one in Phoenix, moving to the Valley in 2016.
Even with his hectic travel schedule, Kasle has made a concerted effort to become involved in his new Jewish community, volunteering with Jewish Family & Children’s Service and taking advantage of learning opportunities with Valley Beit Midrash.
Perhaps the strongest motivating factor for Kasle to stick around his newly adopted hometown is Carly Zankman, who he met at a Chabad at ASU event last fall. Kasle proposed to her a little more than a week ago, and she accepted.
Tell us a little about the sustainability work you do with Ameresco.
There are a number of companies — I believe it’s around 16 — that are approved and certified to respond to proposals that the government puts out and build the projects. Once we are selected, we can look at everything that’ll save energy. Building automation controls is a big one. Making sure things shut down if people aren’t in the room or if the building isn’t occupied. LED lighting is another.
Say we have a whole hospital that is still on fluorescent lights, that’s a lot of potential savings and makes a pretty big project. Water chillers and stuff may not be cool and sexy, but they just make sense.
What are some of the more unusual places your work has taken you?
I’ve worked on projects with the Federal Bureau of Prisons, which was kind of an interesting experience. Everyone treated me great. The guards were super friendly and made me feel very safe, but some people like egging you on to try to make you feel uncomfortable, like telling me this guy is El Chapo’s second-in-charge. These are some bad guys who have done some really bad things and I was like, “I don’t need to know. I’d rather not know.”
Is the travel exciting?
It’s brought me around the country, which is good at times, but to be totally honest, being in a new place but having to travel away a lot was making it tough for me to find community. I was like, “How committed can I be in my community and with friends and different initiatives and little projects I want to do, if I’m doing all this travel?”
The first part was noticing that — noticing that there was something I craved where I am. Connectedness just makes me a happier person.
How have you found connectedness with the Jewish community?
My mom works at JFCS in Tucson. I decided to reach out to JFCS in Phoenix and I had a really nice conversation with their volunteer coordinator, Jody Goldman. Jody filled me in on a couple things that I’m really excited about. They have an upcoming professional development program. It’s a really cool model where there is a group of interested people that are given an inside look into the organization and the different services that are being provided.
Through talking with them, I heard that they had a community garden that is in disrepair. It’s kind of been abandoned and neglected, but they have boxes and soil from a couple years back. I worked with one of their social workers there, and on Sunday we’re actually doing a kickoff gardening event, which should be really fun. We’re going to be planting seeds.
You also attend VBM events. What about them has resonated with you?
I really love how they embrace podcasts. When they’re in the full swing of things in the season, I just throw it on. I found it so cool, the pluralistic learning, but it’s usually not fluffy at all, it’s pretty deep stuff and pretty interesting thinkers and I just love that open-minded, intellectual pursuit.
You recently proposed to your girlfriend. How did it go?
She designed her ring, so she knew she was getting a ring and we’re getting engaged, but I gave her a longer lead time on how long that would take. I thought it was going to come in over the weekend, maybe last Sunday or Monday, but I got a call on Thursday.
So I went and picked it up and it’s in my hand and I’m like, “I need to propose tonight because now I won’t be able to sleep and I’m going to be weird or say something that gives it away.” So I knew the next time I saw her I had to propose.
She had a friend in town and I asked her friend to take her out to dinner. She didn’t really want to go to dinner and just wanted to stay home and cook. I’m like, “OK, take her out on a walk and tell her that you’re going to take pictures for your photo album from the trip you’re on so she will get dressed and wear something that she’ll be happy to get a picture in,” because that’s something she wanted. She told me to make sure she’s not in a workout outfit.
They’re coming around the corner and I’m outside on the porch. Of course, she’s in her workout clothes. I just showed her the ring and had flowers and she was totally surprised. That was really fun and we even have a reaction video because we had a third party there. JN