Here at Namasté Solar, our people care deeply about both making the cooperative a better place to live and work and uplifting the community. One of the best examples of that at Namasté Solar is co-owner and Fleet and Facilities Supervisor Taz Romine-Mann. He’s been with the company since 2016 and wears a variety of hats. Among his many roles and accomplishments at the cooperative, Taz organized a community event called Art + Sol in Sun Valley where our Denver office is located and he serves on the Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusivity (JEDI) Circle.
We chatted with Taz about his work at Namasté Solar, his passion for equity and bringing communities together, and what his superpower would be if he had one.
How long have you been working with Namasté Solar and what is your role?
I started here in March of 2016, and I am the Fleet and Facilities Supervisor. I was initially hired as a fleet and facilities coordinator.
What first drew you to Namasté Solar?
A friend who was a co-owner with the company at the time referred me and recommended that I apply to Namasté Solar. What really drew me was the ownership and governance structure and the community engagement work. It was really inspiring to have the opportunity to work for a company that would spend its time doing that. It's also been great working in solar and knowing that we have a positive impact on the Earth and the environment.
What does being a fleet and facilities manager at Namasté Solar involve?
In a fundamental way, it's basically keeping the lights on and the wheels turning. A lot of our operational abilities flows through my job role. It goes from everything from scheduling oil changes or getting graffiti removed from a building to being in negotiations around volume and incentive pricing with manufacturers and managing the construction of an office. There are also police reports, insurance claims, orientations and training, managing building automation systems, doing fleet registration and insurance renewals, new software implementations, contractor and vendor management, space planning, landscape management, etc. It's a really broad scope.
In 2018, you were involved with initiating and organizing the Art + Sol event at Namasté Solar’s Denver office in Sun Valley. How did that get started and what was the impact?
Part of my job when I first started was to help find a new facility. Our Denver office was in the RiNo neighborhood at the time, and we ended up purchasing our current building in the Sun Valley neighborhood, a racially diverse neighborhood and one of the poorest neighborhoods in the state. We made that decision with the awareness that our company is predominantly white, so we approached it with the intention to become a partner and an anchor business in the neighborhood. As the building has great access to highways, it’s a good place for us to be able to be doing work from, but it’s also an opportunity to come to the other side of the table in supporting the residents and smaller businesses there and amplifying those local voices.
Early on, one of the things that we had talked about that we thought would be really awesome would be to get a mural painted on the building and have it as a piece of artwork from the community. We thought it was a way to provide a sense of ownership of the space back to the community. I started attending Sun Valley Community Coalition meetings, the registered neighborhood organization which is where I met a community outreach team member for Meow Wolf, an art and entertainment company that creates immersive art installations. We discussed the idea of putting together a community mural and the idea took off from there.
Meow Wolf connected us with Faatma Be Oné, a local artist who worked with kids at the Sun Valley Youth Center. She gathered their input for the mural and the kids helped generate the design. From there, Faatma outlined the design, and then kids from Sun Valley and employees of Namasté Solar helped paint it in. Once the mural was finished, we partnered with Meow Wolf and Sun Valley to create the showcase event, called Art + Sol. All the food at the event was made by neighborhood chefs from Sun Valley Kitchen. We exhibited Sun Valley Youth Center art, had kids participate in a talent show, and Aztec dancers came to perform a dance in acknowledgement of the Indigenous history of the land.
It was great. It was one of the biggest events we've put on. We had so many residents show up and a lot of external people coming in as well. It became this melting pot kind of experience.
You’re also actively involved with the company JEDI Taskforce. What’s your involvement with that and why is it important to you?
I’ve always been an advocate at Namasté Solar for equity and the recognition of what it means to have power and privilege, even before we had any committees or taskforces. While I’ve always participated in this area, I think there was always a part of me that was waiting for us to really start digging into the work.
I was a little hesitant to like push, though, but 2020 really changed my approach to that. I recognized that I have power and I have privilege, and I needed to start using it. I think it also spurred some more creative opportunities from company leadership to do more.
A big focus in our work has been, how do we make this foundational and embedded into everything that happens in our company, and create those structures that are lasting and survive transitions? It's going to take a long time for things to actually change, but I'm glad that we are doing it and I'm really happy that I can be part of it.
What advice would you give to new hires at Namasté Solar?
I think one of the things that is critical for the company's continued success is that we all have to be good faith actors and continue this concept that this cooperative is a marketplace of ideas. I would encourage anyone coming into the organization not to hesitate to bring new thoughts and perspectives and not to hesitate to surface those ideas. But also, be open to being wrong or to having your mind changed.
Last, and most important, question: If you could pick one superpower, what would it be?
I would like the ability to create an unlimited number of pocket dimensions. With that, nothing would ever be out of arm's reach. Within those dimensions, I would also be in control of how quickly or slowly time passes, relative to myself. I could pause or speed up time if I was inside one of them. So, if I needed a power nap, I would have my nap dimension already set up and I could pop in there.