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Viewpoint: Many contribute to city's Greenstep status

They say success has many parents. I think that is really true, in the best way. Just this month Red Wing was designated level 4 in Minnesota GreenStep Cities and recognized for this accomplishment at the League of Minnesota Cities annual conference.

Minnesota GreenStep Cities is a voluntary challenge, assistance and recognition program to help cities achieve their sustainability and quality-of-life goals. There are currently five steps, with level 5 just coming into existence this year.

This is an incredible achievement that shows that Red Wing is a leader in sustainable practices.

Local visionaries

Who were some of those parents?

Mayor Donna Dummer, Council President Carol Duff and the Red Wing City Council that saw the need and created the Sustainability Commission in December 2008, and the citizen activists who helped explain the need to our local government officials. What Red Wing did in 2008 was what only the biggest cities in the country were doing — implementing a commission focused on creating a sustainable community now and in the future.

All members of the Sustainability Commission since its first meeting in 2009, of which I am proud to have been a part: They helped put the city on the GreenStep path, defining the actions the city should take for our city to advance in the program and as a community, such as advocating for solar gardens, the PACE loan program, Partners in Energy Green Wing Action Plan, working tirelessly to educate all us all on so many issues and many more. These volunteers saw a vision of a better city and have worked with city staff to make this vision a reality.

Sustainability Commission staff liaisons: First Jay McCleary, who helped craft and guide some of the most successful early sustainability policies of the commission and the city such as solar on public buildings, B-3 benchmarking of public building energy usage and helping implement our first GreenStep actions, and Tina Folch, who found all the actions we have taken in the last few years and helped define the metrics needed to reach level 4.

Visionary city staff over the last 30 years who saw the value in sustainability, before it was cool or maybe even a word. I am probably not going back far enough, nor mentioning all the people who have set the stage for the city to reach this goal. We have stood on the shoulders of many others to get this award. But some of the names that come to my mind are Planning staff Brian Peterson and Steve Kohn, Public Works Directors Denny Tebbe and Rick Moskwa, Deputy Public Works Directors Lynn Nardinger, Jeff Schneider, Shawn Blaney and Bob Stark.

But sustainability and GreenStep Cities encompasses more than the obvious public works and planning components. It includes technical and financial sustainability as well. So we need to also thank Laura Blair for her work and assistance in advocating for broadband and helping to build a robust technical infrastructure, and Marshall Hallock for finding and advocating for the funds to put vision to action. It includes council Administrator Kay Kuhlman for leading a team that knew what to do and helped to make it happen, and working with council members and citizens to implement the vision.

It includes all the staff of the city who worked to make pretty Red Wing a better community. It includes all our engaged and committed citizens, and all their incredible volunteer hours.

How sustainability works

This is not to suggest this work was straight-forward. In fact, it was messy, with different viewpoints and paths forward, with many passionate people with strong ideas. And the work is far from over.

But this is how sustainability works. Many actions reinforcing each other to make our community better, not just now, but for generations to come.

So to all the staff, elected officials, volunteers and most importantly, citizens, over the many years who helped create this place for us to receive this award, lets thank ourselves for what we have accomplished so far and recognize what work is still ahead. This award is for all of us. Let's continue to pay it forward.

 Evan Brown

Red Wing City Council member Evan Brown represents Wards 3 & 4. People may contact him at 651.388.6229 or evan.brown@ci.red-wing.mn.us.

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