The Smart Cities Council Team

Jesse Berst, Founder and Chairman

Jesse came to the smart city sector from the smart grid where he was one of the pioneering thought leaders and chief analyst of, the Internet’s oldest, largest and highest-ranked smart grid site. Prior to that he was a well-known technology analyst and featured columnist at leading magazines, including Computerworld, InformationWeek and PC Week. Working with Ziff-Davis, he launched ZDNet AnchorDesk, which became the publishing company's most popular and profitable Internet property.

Convinced that smart energy is the foundation of a smart, ICT-enabled city, it was a natural transition for Jesse to launch the Smart Cities Council and engage some of the world's most respected technology companies to work with him toward a more livable, workable and sustainable future.
202-650-0023 ext. 102

Philip Bane, Managing Director

Philip is an expert in applying technology to achieve sustainability. He has been a pioneer in resource informatics for sustainability (managing multiple resources streams via integrated data management). Philip has held senior, global positions in sales, operations and law. He has taken a company public as its General Counsel, established businesses in Russia and India, and led complex, multi-million dollar projects managing data in the oil and gas industry. He was an Army Ranger while in the military, completed 200 hours of Vinyasa Yoga Training and is now studying to be a Zen Buddhist Chaplain for sustainability at Upaya Zen Center in Sante Fe, N.M.

At Smart Cities Council, Philip is responsible for managing all day-to-day activities including relationships with our global affiliates and licensees. He also focuses on developing the Council’s new revenue generating opportunities including resource informatics offerings for cities. He also develops the Council's new business opportunities globally.
202-650-0023 ext. 103

Stuart Cowan, Ph.D., Chief Scientist

Stuart co-founded Autopoiesis LLC, which offers ecological design, integrated modeling, feasibility analysis and sustainable finance services for large-scale green development projects. Autopoiesis LLC is one of six organizations leading the international Economics of Change initiative to transform real estate investment models to include a comprehensive range of ecological and social value layers. Stuart served as a Transaction Manager and founding team member with Portland Family of Funds, an innovative sustainable community investment fund.

He served as Conservation Economy Research Director at Ecotrust, where he led the development of the Reliable Prosperity framework for bioregional planning. He is a Faculty member at Bainbridge Graduate Institute in the Sustainable MBA program, and received his doctorate in complex systems from U.C. Berkeley with a focus on ecological economics.


Jason Nelson, Executive Director for Partner Engagement

Jason Nelson has successfully built businesses, systems and teams from the ground up. As Senior Vice President at FierceMarkets, he launched multi-platform media brands in several industries, including energy, telecom and IT. He eventually had P&L responsibility for 25 publications across six industries. Jason was responsible for building company systems for accounting and sales management and for developing new products such as webinars, eBooks and events.

At the Council, Jason engages with companies around the world to encourage them to partner with us to build more livable, workable and sustainable cities.
202-650-0023 x104

Jon DeKeles, Global CIO

For over 40 years Jon has been using technology to try to make this world a better place. He pioneered innovative, web-based technologies working for ZDNet in the 1990s and later for Smart Grid News.Today he oversees website development and performance initiatives, including the recent mobile optimization effort on the Council website.  He has also spent nearly 25 years working in the area of public safety.  

 Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another. Romans 14:19

He was instrumental in making the Post Falls Police Department one of the first in the U.S. to have computers in their patrol cars, as well as using computer-aided dispatch. He helped create a Virtual Patrol Ride Along program to keep Post Falls citizens informed and to maintain police accountability.  Jon currently holds the role as Chaplain for the department.

Kevin Ebi, Global Managing Editor

After working as a business editor and marketing strategist, Kevin now works to protect the wilderness and the wildlife that calls it home. He has traveled across North America, Iceland and New Zealand to craft dynamic nature images to help people care about places they won’t get to see with their own eyes. He documented how bald eagles learn to fly, had the rarest penguins in the world march past him, and even crawled inside a dormant volcano’s magma chamber.

At the Smart Cities Council, Kevin manages our editorial team and enjoys writing articles that help cities reduce their environmental impact.

Doug Peeples, Readiness Editor

Doug Peeples is a former news reporter and public affairs director. He has since worked extensively as a writer and editor for a variety of companies and publications, including Expedia, Microsoft and Pon, a global Dutch holding company.  He also covered the business, regulatory and technology aspects of the energy industry for Smart Grid News. At the Smart Cities Council, Doug writes about the technologies that are making cities smarter. 

Connie DeSpirito Heath, Director of Partnership Engagement
Connie DeSpirito Heath is Manager of City Engagement.  Her career includes over 25 years in institutional advancement working in higher education, healthcare, and the independent school sectors.  She served as Executive Director of the Horizons Student Enrichment Program and as Director of Development at Stevens Institute of Technology, Monmouth Heath Care Foundation and most recently at 180 Turning Lives Around, Inc. 
Bethany Siegrist, Executive Assistant
Bethany Siegrist is Administrative Assistant. Bethany spent 14 years as an administrative assistant for a world-wide financial planning company, working in Connecticut, Georgia, and Northern Virginia.  During those years, she volunteered to provide financial assistance counseling to families and individuals seeking debt consolidation and relief.  She also co-founded a Georgia-based chapter of a national spouses-mentoring-spouses organization for Navy wives. Her initial venture into renewable resources was as Administrative Assistant to the President of a U.S.-based end-to-end sustainable aquafarming company implementing a sophisticated and environmentally responsible aquafarm system offering a solution to dwindling world fish stocks in the face of rising demand.  Moving to Smart Cities Council, she supports the Smart Cities staff.
Michelle Grace, Executive Assistant

After eight years in radio production and sound recording in Honolulu, Michelle moved to Boston to continue her studies in telecommunications, electric engineering and mechanical engineering at Northeastern University.  She spent nine years in LNG transportation, distribution, sales and procurement before moving back to Seattle, her home town, to become the office manager for Global Smart Energy, Smart Grid News and the Smart Cities Council as well as personal assistant to Jesse Berst.

Tanveer Padode, Readiness Associate
Tanveer Padode is Associate for Partner Engagement. He recently graduated from McGill University, majoring in Economics and minoring in Computer Science. He has worked with Frost & Sullivan providing country profiles and research for consultants. He has also helped launch a digital platform (DezignGenie) which enables users to source products and design their homes or offices and brought over 300 vendors onto the digital platform to showcase their products.
He has worked with an IT consulting firm selling Enterprise Resource Planning Software and conducted extensive market research to create a database of target customers to pursue as part of a new sales strategy. At the council, Tanveer interacts with companies around the world to build the partner ecosystem.