Two Minutes with Alec Messina, Director of the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency
How long have you been the Director of the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (Illinois EPA)? What’s your best experience thus far?
I’ve served in this role for nearly two years, although I also served as the agency’s Chief Legal Counsel from 2005 until 2009. My best experience has to have been having my children at the Capitol when the Illinois Senate confirmed my appointment.
How has being a member of ECOS benefitted you?
Reinventing the wheel is not the best use of anyone’s time, and being able to network with Directors or Secretaries who are facing the same issues is amazingly helpful. Whether stealing someone else’s good idea, or simply appreciating that others are struggling with the same issues, being a member of ECOS is enormously beneficial.
What is the best management advice you’ve received?
My parents have been a great sounding board for me, and they have impressed upon me the importance of giving your staff credit for the team’s successes, personally shouldering the blame for the problems, and providing an environment where the members of your team have the freedom to think creatively to solve problems.
Tell us about your morning ritual.
I’m more of a night owl than a morning person, so my ritual – such that one exists – involves copious amounts of coffee. And reading news clips.
What was your childhood dream job?
I asked my mother about this question. She “helpfully” informed me that I wanted to be the President of the United States because I liked being in charge.
What’s your favorite moment of your career so far?
This is so difficult to answer, as I’m not sure I can point to a singular moment that rises above any other. I can say, however, that I have been ridiculously fortunate, no matter where I’ve been, to work with truly amazing, dedicated people. I’ve learned so much from all of them, and it has made me the Director I am today.
What leader do you most admire?
Warren Buffett. From afar, his leadership style seems to comprise things I feel are important from a leader in any organization: be relentlessly positive, but don’t be afraid to acknowledge your mistakes or address impending concerns, and love what you do.
What was your first real job?
My first job, after graduating from law school, was an internship with Illinois EPA’s Division of Legal Counsel.
What can you not live without?
If Hollywood made a movie of your life, who would you like to see play the lead role as you?
This is tough, and I’m torn. Either Denzel, or Craig Butler of Ohio EPA. Frankly, they’re interchangeable.