Joel Gilbert grew up in New York in the borough of Brooklyn and moved out to Long Island as a child. He attended Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in Troy where he earned a BS and MS in Chemical Engineering. Joel started his career designing the reactor safety systems for the Los Angeles Class fast attack submarines under the leadership of Admiral Rickover while he finished his masters in Chemical Engineering. As he finished his masters in management with a minor in operations research he shifted his career to health care management and quickly rose to Deputy Director of the Hospital Association of New York State where he applied these math methods to scheduling, staffing and budgeting health care delivery for the most complex hospitals in the world.
He then went back into hard core engineering working for Mechanical Technology Incorporated helping them first computer balance jet engines for the Air Force, and then evaluate new business opportunities for their heat recovery and cogeneration systems. It was that work that exposed the flaws in energy policy and application that lead to Joel leaving to help utilities rethink their relationships to their largest customers working for Dames and Moore. His work then earned him many accolades including being featured on the front page of the Wall Street Journal for his marketing approach.
This led to Joel being retained by over 200 gas and electric utilities and over 100 industrial and commercial firms across the United States to help them clarify and implement successful customer energy programs. As part of these efforts Joel wrote about a dozen books for EEI, EPRI, NRECA, and others on how to approach key accounts and customer agendas. His client roster included virtually every major investor-owned utility in the US.
Joel servef as a thought leader and speaker in energy master planning, online energy efficiency program implementation, energy marketing, and demand side management for US utilities and large industrial enterprises. Perhaps the high point of his career was when he was asked to keynote the annual JD Power meeting on customer service. Joel retired from Apogee in 2023 when he and his wife Susan sold the company to M33 Growth.
Joel has served as Deacon for his church, and teaches Sunday School with a special emphasis on the Jewish perspective in the life and teaching of Jesus. He plays bassoon for several church orchestras and has performed in the Bradenton Symphony Orchestra and the Sarasota Pops Orchestra. Joel also serves on the Board of Directors for the Sarasota Pops. Joel writes two weekly blogs: www.captain-obvious.com which covers the energy issues for energy companies today and www.geektheology.net which offers his insights into spiritual questions based upon his Jewish heritage coupled with his personal journey as an adult convert to Christianity.
Susan was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, as her father was finishing his PhD in metallurgical engineering at Carnegie Mellon. He accepted a professorship at the University of Kentucky thinking Lexington would be a nice place to raise kids. And it was. She grew up owning and riding horses, loving the beautiful horse farms with rolling hills of bluegrass and white fences, and to this day enjoys many long-lasting friendships forged there.
Following her love of physics and life-long passion for energy stewardship, she earned her BS and MS at the University of Kentucky and set out to find a high school teaching position. Having several offers, she chose the position with Dekalb County because they had just completed the Fernbank Science Center and had a real interest in supporting science education.
She was nominated in her first year as the County’s Science Teacher of the Year. She then joined the three-person energy consulting firm A&C Enercom where she continued her commitment to energy stewardship by training utility employees from coast to coast to perform energy audits and helped launch commercial energy efficiency programs for Georgia’s newly established State Energy Office.
She rose to Vice President during her 14 years with the consultancy and led sales and marketing growing the firm from a staff of four in Atlanta to more than 600 employees in 40 offices across the country. In 1994, she sold her ownership in the consulting firm to Wisconsin Power & Light and joined her husband, Joel, to form Apogee Interactive, Inc. to continue driving energy efficiency in this country. Funding for the new company came from Joel’s consulting work at his firm, Gilbert & Associates, and from funding from 75 utilities that were willing to pay in advance for the first products.
Susan’s passion for communicating energy savings opportunities to customers drove Joel to develop an online home energy audit tool that became the industry standard for energy utilities. Today, hundreds of North American utilities offer the home energy audit on their websites to help customers Save Energy & Money. As time passed, it became clear to Susan and Joel that utility customers needed a more proactive approach to finding ways to use energy wisely, so Apogee moved to outbound, personalized, energy insights delivered as short videos. This led to an explosion of other related personalized messaging including Beat-the-Peak Notifications, Reliability Reports, Welcome New Customers, Storm Alerts, Program Promotions, etc.
In 2023, Joel and Susan sold Apogee to a growth equity company whose vision is making it the anchor store in an expanding energy marketplace. They are making complementary acquisitions to grow the firm’s capabilities and to cross-sell services with the new companies’ clients. Susan has been retained to assist with the transition and to serve as an advisor to the evolving company.
Outside of her leadership role at Apogee, Susan is active in many types of community service. In Tucker, she has been on the Smoke Rise Country Club Board of Directors for 14 years, currently serving as Board Secretary. Six years ago, seeing that the entrance to the Country Club’s subdivision, Kanawha, was unstable and at risk of collapse, she worked with other residents on a $50k fundraiser to secure and renovate it. That required bring the defunct Kanawha Community Association back to life to accomplish the project. Knowing the volunteer, 6-person Board of Directors could not accomplish all Kanawha needed, Susan worked to assemble 17 Block Captains who meet routinely to keep neighbors connected. They help identify new residents, keep up contact information, and hold Block Parties. To keep information flowing, she writes and distributes a bi-monthly KCA newsletter.
Seeing the need for better communication in the broader area of 2,300 homes that compose Smoke Rise, in 2008 Susan was invited to write for the area’s local newspaper, the Smoke Signal. There she works to share news from the Churches, Community and Country Club, writes a monthly Tech Talk column covering energy and technology tips, and is a freelance staff writer covering other happenings. In 2020, when our treasurer released responsibility for managing the Display Advertisers, the financial lifeblood of the paper, Susan stepped in to manage their contributions, which now cover the paper’s annual operating costs.
Susan and Joel are active with the Smoke Rise Baptist Church where Joel regularly teaches several Sunday School Classes. Both have served as Deacons. Susan is the Communications Director for the Discovery Class, manages the Caffeine Ministry Welcome Center, and served for several years on the Finance Committee.
Recommended by Colin Harris, their Discovery Class instructor, Susan served a 5-year term as a Trustee of Georgia’s Developmental Disabilities Ministry (DDM -- Where Hope Lives), a nonprofit, charitable corporation serving adults with developmental disabilities and their families. DDM provides homes in a residential setting for those who cannot care for themselves. Founded by parents who asked, “Who will care for my disabled child when I am no longer able?” DDM is the answer for ~70 residents living in 20 houses scattered across Georgia. The need is huge, and the wait list long. DDM is aspiring to grow to handle more of this rising need. In 2023, Susan returned to DDM as a member of the Capital Campaign Committee to renovate 10 of the homes' kitchens and baths.
Stephen attended Greater Atlanta Christian School and went on to study software development first at Perimeter College and then completing his BS at Georgia State. He has now largely completed his masters in software design and development, and has taken a job with LexisNexis. His thesis illustrates how AI can learn to solve video games.
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