Vice President, Government & Industry Affairs, A.O. Smith
- JD, University of Baltimore School of Law, 2002
- BA, University of Delaware, 1993
Selected work history
- Associate, then Partner, Squire Patton Boggs, LLP 2002-2016
- JP&G Corporation, 2003-2008
- Senior Legislative Assistant, Office of Rep. Jerrold Nadler, 1996-1999
Unlike many other executives at the top echelons of government affairs, Joshua Greene’s career path didn’t involve simply climbing the ladder on Capitol Hill and then doing the same in the lobbying world. He’s taken detours into real estate, practiced environmental law, and started a nonprofit incubator for clean-technology companies. That diverse experience led him to his current role at A.O. Smith, one of the leading companies in the water-treatment and water-heating space.
What do you consider a landmark career moment? What lessons have you learned over the course of your career?
I would say being a member of a House Judiciary Committee member’s staff during the last impeachment. I was working for Jerry Nadler, who ascended to the chairman of the committee. I had always been in history, government, and public service. My parents were teachers. I never envisioned being involved in an impeachment proceeding of a United States president.
Who would you say has been your biggest mentor?
At Patton Boggs, now Squire Patton Boggs, Tom Boggs had a great influence on me and gave me the opportunity to prove myself. Also at Patton Boggs, Jon Yarowsky—Jon taught me how to combine and master the craft of oral advocacy and the strategy behind that advocacy. As a young lawyer, he took me on and we formed a tight working relationship. Without him, becoming a young partner at Patton Boggs in 2010 may not have happened.
Another is DeMaurice Smith, now president of the National Football League Players Association. He was a partner as well at Patton Boggs.
How did you become interested in issues of energy and the environment?
My first introduction to energy and the environment was my time on Capitol Hill. I not only worked for Nadler, but I also worked for Eliot Engel. Very much like what happens today, young staffers get an array of issue areas to work on. I first got my taste of environmental policy with Mr. Engel, and that transferred over to Mr. Nadler as it relates to what was then called “clean fuels,” primarily ethanol. It had to do with the confluence of both the Clean Air Act and fuel policy, and the desire to trim our energy interdependence on foreign sources of oil. So that is where I first got exposed.
Then, when I came into private practice at Patton Boggs, I just kept building on energy and environment as a foundation and started on working on other energy/environmental areas. I grew a legal and regulatory expertise on not only renewable-energy policy but energy transmission, the generation of energy, as well as the appliance and energy-efficiency sectors.
Could you tell us about your work with entrepreneurship incubators?
I always envisioned at some point in my life I would be an entrepreneur of some kind, given that both sides of my family, historically, were full of entrepreneurs, including family that immigrated over to Ellis Island. I was around them—whether it be the cleaning shop, the butcher shop, or delivery service—so I had it in my DNA.
Then I had the opportunity to bring together my energy and environmental expertise and little bit of a business background and started working with a nonprofit called Cleantech Open. Cleantech Open is an organization that is the world’s largest incubator and accelerator for clean-technology entrepreneurs. There was a nexus with what was my legal-training background with the social, environmental, and business goals of CTO. I was able to bring an array of different sponsors and other volunteers to what was then called the CTO Southeast Region. We brought in diverse entrepreneurs, and it was really exciting helping them reach their business goals and objectives, working on technologies that had a business case and the added benefit of addressing a myriad of environmental concerns well before people were ready to talk about climate change.
In recent months, the death of George Floyd and ongoing Black Lives Matter protests have caused the country to train its focus on issues of racial justice. Have these events affected your advocacy efforts/approach? If so, how?
Looking at things from different viewpoints, appreciating those different viewpoints, and also having an understanding of where a particular member or staffer or regulator is coming from and how they may be looking at an issue differently because they’re either a person of color or of a diverse background. Thankfully, over my years in Washington, there are more people of color in all of those categories, as opposed to when I was a much younger person in D.C.
I am beginning to receive more and more questions about A.O. Smith’s diversity and inclusion efforts and initiatives: What are we doing in certain communities where we have people on the ground? Are those members making us a stronger company? I started to get more of those questions directly from members of Congress and their staff. I think that is also an evolving conversation within A.O. Smith. We released our first corporate responsibility and sustainability report in 2018. There are more inquiries than there were prior.
From a diversity perspective, what has changed in the government-affairs industry since you came to Washington? What changes would you like to see in the future?
From when I first arrived in Washington in 1992, literally within a generation it has changed for the better. There are more diverse folks—more prominently on the Democratic side of things, but there are a lot more Republican staffers and members. We’re also seeing the changes that were made in the early ‘90s in the Clinton administration, where greater opportunities were given to people of color within the administration. There was Secretary of Transportation Rodney Slater, who was also a partner at Patton Boggs that I got to know quite well. What ended up happening is that they mentored a group of diverse staff and those people then went on to their own career. Now you have many more people of color that are lobbyists, that had lobbying firms, or that have management positions. That’s not to say that there’s not still a skew. It takes access and it takes mentorship.
The things that could change? Bottom line, it’s first about access and giving people opportunity. Then, it’s about mentorship. The Economic Policy Club of D.C. and other groups have been doing a lot of that in and around the District of Columbia working with very large organizations. In terms of the Hill, there needs to be more opportunity for staffers of color to ascend the ranks, within offices led by not only people of color, by white people as well. From there, we need mentorship and professional-development programs to help those individuals begin to burnish the more emotional and social qualities and characteristics that they could advance not only on the Hill but off the Hill as well.
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