Medium Nonprofit CEO of the Year – Anthony DePrima, Energize Delaware Executive Director
Tony DePrima often says that moving to Delaware in the 1990s was the best thing that ever happened to him.
“Working in Delaware was such a pleasure compared to the political and working environment in New Jersey. I can’t say enough about living in Delaware,” he said. “It’s been our home for 30 years, and there’s no regrets.”
The Garden State native first arrived to take a position as Dover’s planning director, and after nine years in that role, he became the city manager. As one of the top officials in Delaware’s second most populous city, he started to think about how to expand his passion for alternative energy and city operations.
Under his watch, DePrima started programs to reduce Dover’s carbon footprint through daily operations. He was also one of the architects for the 103-acre Dover Sun Park, which brought solar energy to the city’s electric grid starting in 2011.
“If you think back to the 1970s, global warming was in the textbooks but no one was really paying attention. I’ve always been about environmental ethics and thinking about what world we’re going to leave our grandchildren,” he said. “That’s always been the baseline when I worked for the city, ‘How are we behaving in terms of keeping the planet green?”
While much of the push for green energy in the early 2000s was driven by legislation, DePrima’s methods caught the eye of State Sen. Harris McDowell, who sat on the board of Energize Delaware in 2011. Back then, the organization was looking to hire its first executive director.
The rest is history. Under DePrima’s tenure, the organization grew to seven employees — and dozen more contractors — in a downtown Dover office and offers several loan programs to help businesses, homeowners, farms and more to weatherize and upgrade their energy systems. Back in 2018, Energize Delaware was awarded $4 million from Delmarva Power to set up a grant program to help low-income families pay for energy-efficient appliances, heating systems and other weatherization projects.
The nonprofit was also instrumental in backing C-PACE in 2018, and the program helps finance projects that include energy efficiency and other renewable energy measures. The first loan in Delaware was awarded to the Buccini/Pollin Group for the historic DuPont Building.
But as he looks ahead on his retirement at the end of this year, DePrima says his biggest accomplishment is building a strong foundation for Energize Delaware to continue building upon.
“I think just building a credible organization as a whole is an achievement,” he said. “After retirement, I may look for some opportunities, and continue volunteering. But I think at this point, it’s a good time to pass it on to somebody else that has a longer vision.”