The Executive Board is responsible for setting goals and strategies for the Southcentral Minnesota Clean Energy Council, arranging guest speakers and tours, and managing the SMCEC as an organization. The Executive Board meets on the 4th Friday of each month from 9:00 to 11:00 AM via Zoom. The Executive Board welcomes members of the general public to attend these meetings and provide feedback on its activities.
Briana Parr-Baker, Vice Chair
Briana Parr-Baker is an Energy Auditor/Quality Control Inspector for the Weatherization Assistance Program at the Minnesota Valley Action Council. As our energy industry changes, Briana wants to ensure that the financial, health, and social benefits of clean energy are accessible to people of all income levels and geographic regions. Previously, she was the Southern Minnesota Coordinator for Minnesota Interfaith Power and Light and worked to raise awareness for a local cooperative community solar garden. Briana graduated from Gustavus Adolphus College and has been involved with a variety of nonprofits, including the Lutheran Volunteer Corps, Vermont Housing and Conservation Board AmeriCorps, and Living Earth Center.
Sabri Fair is a recent graduate of Macalester College in Saint Paul, Minnesota, where he majored in Environmental Studies and Geology. Sabri joined the Region Nine Development Commission as a Lead for Minnesota Sustainability Fellow in August 2021. In this role, he is working to foster a more sustainable and equitable economy in South Central Minnesota and to envision new developments that will make the region economically resilient. Sabri grew up on a farm in Michigan and has lived in Zanzibar.
James L. Gibson
He is a former member of the Wisconsin Technical College System Board, where he was also Education Director for Agriculture, Natural Resources (and Renewable Energy) and a member of the Wisconsin Environmental Education Board. While with the Wisconsin Technical College System Board, he helped establish a renewable energy technician education program. Along the way, he became involved with Itasca Community College in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, and its workforce development program, garnering funding from the USDA and the National Science Foundation along the way. Later, he joined the faculty and administration at the University of Minnesota-Waseca.
In addition, Jim spent five years as Executive Director of the Minnesota Agricultural Interpretive Center in Waseca, also known as Farmamerica, where he tied his interest in energy to the past, present and future of agriculture as embodied in the mission of that institution. He holds a Ph.D. from Michigan State University.
Joel Hanif is a Community Development Planner for the Region Nine Development Commission. At Region Nine, he works on various community and economic development, planning, and energy projects in the nine-county region surrounding Mankato. Prior to joining Region Nine, Joel was a Regional Planner and Community Developer for the River Valley Regional Commission in Americus, Georgia, where he worked on comprehensive planning, zoning, and Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) projects in a 16-county region. He holds a bachelor’s degree in geography and a master’s degree in environmental planning and design from the University of Georgia.
Rich Huelskamp (previous Chair)
Rich Huelskamp has more than 30 years of supporting, educating, and assisting home/business owners as well as Minnesota's energy industry professionals. He has coordinated engineering projects and educational programs throughout Minnesota. Rich earned his BS Degrees in Physics, Mathematics, and partially completed a degree in Mechanical Engineering. He has developed curriculum and taught energy efficiency and renewable energy subjects at Riverland College, Winona State University, BioProducts and BioSystems Engineering Department of the University of Minnesota, and Fond du Lac Tribal & Community College. Rich believes in the need of developing community plans to include the three legged stool of renewables — biomass, solar and wind as well as the cost effectiveness of energy efficiency planning.
Rich Huelskamp’s Solar Open House
Lindsay James is a student at Gustavus Adolphus College majoring in Environmental Studies and Geography. She is also a Sustainability Intern for the Johnson Center for Environmental Innovation at Gustavus and is involved with student organizations that focus on climate related issues. Working and participating in faith-based camp ministries during her upbringing and through college has continued to inspire her interest in renewable energy, conservation, and the equitable transition to a more sustainable society.
Jeff Jeremiason is a Professor in Environmental Studies and is the Co-Director of the Johnson Center for Environmental Innovation at Gustavus Adolphus College. The Johnson Center supports environmental sustainability on the Gustavus Adolphus campus and in the surrounding communities while equipping students to continue that work in their lives beyond Gustavus.
Prof. Jeremiason also runs the Gustavus Environmental Chemistry Lab. The lab measures mercury, trace metals, cations and organic carbon, collecting and analyzing environmental samples in the St Louis River and the Marcell Experimental Forest. The lab also does trace level mercury and methylmercury analysis.
He received his B.A. from Augustana College and an M.S. and Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota.
Sandra K. Loerts is a Minnesota State University, Mankato Emerita, retiring in April 2017 after almost 40 years of work in the Financial Aid Office with over 27 of those years as Financial Aid Director, assisting students in reaching their educational goals and contributing to the mission of the university. During her career she served on numerous committees and work groups including the President’s Commission on the Status of Women and the Commission on Diversity. She was an active member of MAFAA (Minnesota Association of Financial Aid Administrators) dealing with federal and state legislation interpretation and implementation. Since retirement she has volunteered at the Literacy Center at the Vine Adult Community Center and served on it’s Good Neighbor Project. She is a member-at-large on a local church Finance Committee. She was raised on a farm in Northwest Iowa and has always had an interest in weather and becoming a certified SkyWarn Observer. Climate change and the environment are areas of interest and concern and thus, started attending the Clean Energy Forums since retirement as an interested Mankato resident.
Leigh Pomeroy, Chair
Leigh Pomeroy joined the Region Nine Renewable Energy Task Force board, the precursor to the Southcentral Minnesota Clean Energy Council, upon its merger with the E2020 Energy Conservation Task Force, of which he was a member. He also serves on the Clean Energy Resource Teams Southeast Region Steering Committee. He has taught film and writing at Minnesota State University Mankato and has written on energy, environment, politics, health care, film, travel and wine. The electricity for his plug-in hybrid Prius Prime comes from his 24 solar panels.
Louis Schwartzkopf is Professor Emeritus of Physics at Minnesota State Mankato, where he taught and did research for 28 years; he also served as department chair for six years. He has a bachelor's degree from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, both in physics. Since retirement, as a part of a group in the Department of Mechanical and Civil Engineering at Minnesota State Mankato, he has done data analysis for a grant from the Minnesota Department of Commerce to evaluate the performance of solar thermal walls in Minnesota; he has conducted a greenhouse gas inventory for the cities of Mankato and North Mankato; and he has been project lead of a team which has developed a climate action plan for Minnesota State Mankato. He believes in the necessity of moving on a local statewide as well as national level toward an economy based on renewable energy and sustainability.
As a Certified Public Accountant, Jody has advised business and individual clients for over thirty years. She is the founding shareholder of Swanson Hinsch & Co. CPAs, retiring January 2018. Her previous board service includes Mankato Area Chamber of Commerce president and Greater Mankato Economic Development Corp. treasurer, both predecessors to Greater Mankato Growth (GMG); Mankato Area Foundation; So. Minnesota Advocates treasurer; and SC Minnesota Pride. Jody is also a member of Greater Mankato Growth and the Minnesota Society of CPAs. She has taught educational classes to CPAs, attorneys and others statewide. She holds a BS degree in accounting with honors from UW-River Falls. She enjoys free electricity from 55 solar panels in two arrays on her rural Mankato home.
Gary Winters has a background in small business as an owner, operator and manager of golf properties since 1994. Through the same time period as a member of the PGA, Gary has helped the people enjoy their time playing golf through coaching, golf club fitting and repair. In 2018, he installed rooftop solar on his home after years of planning. In 2020, he teamed with a professional installer to start The Solar Store in Mankato, a brick and mortar store with a focus on helping people and business owners set up their own solar systems.
Katy Wortel is retired from running a small scale pumpkin farm in Mankato. Representing Mankato Area Environmentalists, she served as an intervener in two past Northern States Power company electric rate cases. Katy also served on the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) rules task forces for garbage incinerators and incinerator ash and was a Blue Earth County Commissioner from 2003 through 2008. During that time she helped establish the Three Rivers Resource, Conservation & Development Council's Renewable Energy Task Force, which became the Region Nine Renewable Energy Task Force (RETF). She served as the Chair of the RETF before now serving as Secretary on the Southcentral Minnesota Clean Energy Council.