Welcome Guest


The STAR Communities team has diverse experience working as sustainability directors, planners, project managers, legislative assistants, researchers and executive directors before coming to STAR. We’re excited to work with you as you lead local sustainability initiatives in the U.S. and beyond.


Hilari Varnadore

Executive Director

Hilari Varnadore was named executive director of STAR Communities in 2011. STAR Communities is a DC-based nonprofit that works to evaluate, improve and certify sustainable communities. The organization helps cities and counties achieve a healthy environment, a strong economy and well-being for their residents through the first framework for community sustainability, the STAR Community Rating System.

Previously, Varnadore was sustainability director for Frederick County, MD, where she established the Office of Sustainability, organized the first sustainability commission and internal action team, and implemented new programs and policies related to transportation, green building, and climate and energy. Before that, she was a principal planner for local government, providing land use, environmental and municipal planning services. Varnadore holds a Master’s of Arts degree from Northern Arizona University in Rural Geography and a Bachelor’s of Science degree from Unity College of Maine in Environmental Policy. She is a member of the National League of Cities’ Sustainable Cities Institute Steering Committee and is a 13th generation Marylander.

Kristi Wamstad-Evans

Technical Director

kristi_pic Kristi Wamstad-Evans is Technical Director for STAR Communities, responsible for overseeing the procedural aspects of the STAR framework and reporting platform. Kristi draws on over 20 years of implementing sustainability within the public, private, and non-profit sectors. Prior to joining STAR, Kristi was Omaha’s first Sustainability Coordinator. She has also worked for HDR, Inc., as National Sustainable Solutions Coordinator and as the Context Sensitive and Sustainable Solutions (CS3) Program Manager for a major transportation infrastructure program in Oregon. Kristi holds a Masters Degree in Planning from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Bachelors Degrees in Biology and Environmental Studies from the University of Colorado-Boulder. She is a LEED Accredited Professional (Building, Design, & Construction), BPI Building Analyst & Envelope Specialist, and IFMA Sustainable Facilities Professional. Kristi lives in Lincoln, Nebraska, with her husband, kids, and assortment of furry friends, including Buckminster the Bernese Mountain Dog, Pepper the German Wirehair/Lab mix, and Popo Agie the cat.

Alex Helling

Technical Specialist

Helling STAR HeadshotAs Technical Specialist, Alex works to research and develop new sustainability data sources, methods, and tools associated with the STAR framework. He also supports the community submission review process to ensure timely and accurate reviews and helps coordinate STAR’s external partnerships and networks of subject experts. Before joining STAR, Alex spent most of his professional time within the environmental and food system fields. He has worked with the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources, owned and operated an organic produce farm outside of Denver, Colorado, and collaborated with the City of Burlington Vermont’s Office of Sustainability. Alex holds an MS in Community Development and Applied Economics from the University of Vermont and a BS from the University of Minnesota in Environmental Science, Policy and Management.

Lacey Shaver

Community Engagement Manager

Lacey_headshotAs Community Engagement Manager, Lacey develops and manages technical assistance programs to support communities on the STAR certification track. She runs the STAR Leadership Program and works as a one-on-one liaison with cities and counties, providing technical support and assistance during and after the certification process. Lacey also develops communications and outreach strategy for the organization.

Prior to STAR, Lacey worked within the environmental field, conducting analyses of climate and hazard mitigation planning efforts at The Nature Conservancy; developing data management strategies for community organizing, fundraising, and marketing at Greenpeace; and performing spatial analysis of land use and energy reliance for the Foundation for Environmental Security and Sustainability. She holds a MPA in Environmental Science and Policy from Columbia University and a BA from the Croft Institute of International Studies at the University of Mississippi. She co-chairs the DC networking group for young planning professionals, YIPPS, and volunteers with Sustainable DC and Casey Trees in her free time.

Aaron Lande

Operations & Member Relations Manager

Aaron_headshotAs Operations & Member Relations Manager, Aaron is responsible for the recruitment, registration and retention of STAR Member Communities and STAR Affiliate members. He also provides direct member support and liaison services to West Coast and Canadian communities to help them through the certification process of the STAR Rating System. He also develops education offerings and training programs, and coordinates conference participance. Previously, Aaron was a Sustainable Cities Specialist for the US Green Building Council. He also worked as a Legislative Assistant for Congresswoman Darlene Hooley (OR), focusing primarily on issues related to Education, International Relations, Defense, Natural Resources and the Environment, Energy, and Science. Aaron holds a Masters in Urban and Regional Planning from Portland State University with a specialization in land use policy, and he received his undergraduate degree in political science from Carleton College. He was an inaugural member of Next American City’s Next American Vanguard.

David Abell

Program Coordinator

David_AbellAs Program Coordinator, David works primarily with cities, towns and counties engaged in the Leadership STAR Community Program. He focuses on ensuring that their path to certification is a smooth and educational process that will help lead them to a more sustainable future. David also supports post-certification activities and outreach and communications. Previously, David worked for a regional government in Louisville, Kentucky assisting communities with water and wastewater infrastructure planning and local food system planning. He became familiar with STAR when he worked with the Louisville Sustainability Council to collect data for Louisville’s 4-STAR Community Rating. David holds a Masters in Urban and Environmental Planning from the University of Virginia with a focus in facilitation and collaboration and a BA from Centre College where he double majored in Environmental Studies and Anthropology.