In May of 2014, Mayor Ed Lee appointed Debbie as the Director of the San Francisco Department of the Environment, a city agency that creates visionary policies and programs to ensure a sustainable future for San Francisco. Raphael returned to San Francisco after three years leading the California Department of Toxic Substances Control, where she worked to balance stakeholder interests in protecting the public and environment from toxic harm.
Raphael believes that cities like San Francisco are incubators for bold action that results in meaningful change. Her approach to environmental decision-making focused on using the best available science and robust stakeholder interaction to ensure that all voices are honored. This perspective has allowed her to succeed in addressing some of the most challenging environmental problems, including the rollout of California’s landmark Green Chemistry Initiative.
In 20 years of public service at city, county, and state levels, Raphael has crafted and implemented groundbreaking policies around toxics reduction, green building, business engagement, integrated pest management, and environmentally preferable purchasing. Raphael has since left the Department of the Environment to work as a consultant with the Bloomberg Foundation. She graduated with honors in biology from the University of California, Berkeley, was a Smithsonian and National Science Foundation fellow, and has a Master’s degree in Physiological Plant Ecology from UCLA.