Melissa Hoffer

Called “unstoppable” by her boss, Gov. Maura Healey, Melissa Hoffer has taken on formidable challenges throughout her career — representing detainees at Guantanamo Bay, suing ExxonMobil over climate change, and this year, becoming the nation’s first state-level climate chief.

On Jan. 19, Hoffer will take the podium at the Women Elected Municipal Officials Leadership Luncheon, held during the MMA Annual Meeting & Trade Show in Boston, to talk about her work and experiences as a woman leader in government and in the legal profession.

On her first day as governor in January, Healey signed an executive order creating the Office of Climate Innovation and Resilience, as well as Hoffer’s cabinet-level position. The news attracted national attention over what Hoffer’s appointment could mean for climate policy around the country, and Hoffer has brought a sense of urgency to the role, given the stakes involved.

“We have a very limited and fast-closing window to make the change that we need to make with climate so that this can be a habitable planet,” Hoffer told the Boston Globe in March.

She quickly established the Massachusetts Community Climate Bank, the first green bank in the country dedicated to affordable housing, and speaks about the importance of integrating climate goals into all aspects of state government, instead of isolating it to one department or agency.

“The climate crisis is one of the biggest challenges we face, but it also presents an unprecedented opportunity for us to build a better, healthier, more equitable future,” Hoffer said in a statement when her appointment was announced. “Climate change is not just an environmental issue — it’s a public health issue, an energy security issue, an issue inextricably linked with emergency preparedness, land use, agriculture, workforce development, clean tech innovation, transportation, housing, education, and more.”

Hoffer previously served in the Biden administration, as the acting general counsel and then as principal deputy general counsel for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Before that, she worked for the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office, starting as the chief of the Environmental Protection Division in 2012, and then becoming chief of the Energy and Environment Bureau, which was established in 2015 when Healey became attorney general.

At the bureau, Hoffer oversaw matters involving the civil and criminal enforcement of environmental laws, proceedings before the Department of Public Utilities, energy policy, and defensive cases. She led the office’s litigation against ExxonMobil, alleging that the company deceived Massachusetts investors and consumers about the risks posed by climate change and the impacts of its fossil fuel products on the climate.

Hoffer’s appointment as climate chief gave her the opportunity to rejoin forces with Healey.

“Melissa Hoffer is unstoppable and I’m thrilled to welcome her back to Massachusetts as our first ever Climate Chief,” Healey tweeted in December. “The creation of this position sends a clear message that Massachusetts is a global leader in the fight against climate change.”

Before working in government, Hoffer held senior roles at the Conservation Law Foundation and as a litigator and environmental lawyer at WilmerHale, where she was part of a team that represented six Algerian detainees who were being held without charges at Guantanamo Bay. After an extensive legal battle, the six were ultimately released.

Hoffer also served as a law clerk for Magistrate Judge Joyce London Alexander in the U.S. District Court in Boston. She has a law degree from Northeastern University, a certificate in environmental management from Tufts University, a master’s degree in education from the University of Massachusetts, and a bachelor’s degree from Hampshire College.

When Hoffer isn’t busy combating the climate crisis or tackling complex legal issues, she can be found on her farm in Barre, raising a herd of Nigerian dwarf dairy goats.

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