Mayor Rogero Welcomes IBM Smarter Cities Challenge Team to Knoxville

Communications Director

Kristin Farley
(865) 215-2589

400 Main St., Room 691
Knoxville, TN 37902

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Mayor Rogero Welcomes IBM Smarter Cities Challenge Team to Knoxville

Posted: 04/30/2013
Mayor Madeline Rogero this morning welcomed the members of an IBM Smarter Cities Challenge team to Knoxville. The five-member team, made up of IBM experts from three countries, will spend the next three weeks in Knoxville to help analyze and recommend ways for the City and its partners to reduce residential emergency utility bills through weatherization and energy education services.

"Knoxville is honored to be chosen for an IBM Smarter Cities Challenge grant," Mayor Rogero said. "This team will provide valuable expertise and objective outside analysis to help us address a chronic problem of high utility bills and home energy inefficiency for some of our most vulnerable citizens."

Last November, IBM announced that Knoxville had been selected for a Smarter Cities Challenge grant. Launched in 2011, the IBM Smarter Cities Challenge is a three-year, 100-city, $50-million competitive grant program. The program, which is IBM's single-largest philanthropic initiative, assigns a team of top IBM experts to each winning city to study a key issue identified by the city's leadership. The grant provides consulting services valued at $400,000.

Knoxville's application asked for advice on the most effective way to connect weatherization and energy education services to residents who receive emergency utility bill assistance. This will help reduce the demand each year for emergency assistance with utility bills for low-income ratepayers, particularly those in older, inefficient buildings.

During their three weeks in Knoxville, the IBM Smarter Cities team members will meet with dozens of local stakeholders. At the end of the process, the team will present a report with findings and recommendations. For more information about the City's application and to see a video of Mayor Rogero at the IBM Smarter Cities Summit last November, see

Bios of IBM Team Members

Meet the five IBM employees spending the next three weeks in Knoxville.

Rudi Loepp
brings 34 years of experience to the Smarter Cities Knoxville project. During his time at IBM, he has held a number of management positions and has worked primarily with Public Sector clients. Currently Rudi has business development and responsibility for IBM's Smarter Cities suite of products. Rudi is a public sector expert. He is very familiar with the operations of city governments and has worked with cities to assist them in becoming smarter cities. Rudi also participated in IBM's Corporate Service Corps program in Africa. Rudi enjoys golfing, music and cooking.

Avalyn Pace
is a 30-year veteran with IBM leading the Energy & Utilities (E&U) team in IBM's Global Solution Center. Avalyn works with the E&U industry to create solutions addressing key industry problems in Power Generation Optimization, Intelligent Utility Network and Customer Operations Transformation. Avalyn holds an MBA from Southern Methodist University in Dallas and a certification in nonprofit management. She was selected for the 2013 Leadership Dallas program and is a recipient of the Women of Color Technology All Star award.

Debbie Bonner Perkins
is a Client Services Leader in IBM's Global Technology Services division. She focuses on providing business value to clients in Tennessee, North Carolina and Virginia. She has also supported clients in the Industrial, Financial Services and Public Sectors including the State of Tennessee. In her 30-year career with IBM, Debbie has held a number of sales and technical support positions including Systems Engineer, Client Executive, Software Account Manager and Client Services Manager. She is an active member in the Memphis community having served on the Board of Directors for Junior Achievement of Memphis & the Mid-South, the University of Memphis Alumni Executive Committee and as a Leadership Memphis graduate. She works with a number of organizations focused on providing mentoring and leadership skills to youth in underserved areas in the city. Debbie has been recognized with numerous civic awards for her service.

Dr. Anika Schumann
is a Research Staff Member at IBM's Smarter Cities Technology Centre in Dublin, Ireland, where she is leading the research efforts on smart buildings that seek to exploit and advance Artificial Intelligence methods for fault identification, reduced energy use, and increased occupant comfort in buildings. Anika has led the work on semi-automatically configuring building energy management systems. Anika joined IBM Dublin two years ago and has been working at the intersection of smart buildings and artificial intelligence for four years. In that area, she has written several scientific papers, organized international workshops, and given keynote and invited presentations at European and International venues. Anika has already lived on five continents and has worked at IBM's TJ Watson Research Centre in New York, the University of South Australia, Australia, the University of Potchefstroom, South Africa, Infineon AG in Bangalore, India, the Technical University of Munich, Germany, and the Cork Constraint Computation Centre, Ireland.

Jeni Vancura
is IBM's Director of Human Resources, Corporate, providing strategic support across the realm of HR programs and initiatives for IBM's Finance, Marketing and Communications, Legal, Strategy, CIO and HR organizations. She is also the Westchester County "Senior Location Executive," responsible for sponsoring and planning corporate social responsibility and community events across the county's five Westchester sites, representing IBM internally and externally. Jeni holds an MS degree in Organizational Management and Human Resource Development from Manhattanville College in Purchase, N.Y. She has also developed skills and experience in effective change management processes while at IBM. Jeni lives in Sandy Hook, Connecticut. She enjoys traveling, cooking and the outdoors. She also enjoys volunteering her time mentoring veterans who are attempting to re-enter the workforce.

The IBM liaison for the team during its time in Knoxville is Tina Wilson, the manager of Corporate Citizenship & Corporate Affairs for Tennessee and North Carolina. She serves as the focal point for IBM's corporate citizenship activity at one of IBM's largest sites.