Executive Board

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 at the South Central Service Cooperative, 2075 Lookout Drive, North Mankato. The Executive Board welcomes members of the general public to attend these meetings and provide feedback on its activities.

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 currently serves on the Clean Energy Resource Teams Southeast Region Steering Committee, the University of Minnesota Extension Southeast Regional Sustainable Development Partnership board, and the board of the Mankato Area Environmentalists. He has taught film and writing at Minnesota State University Mankato and has written on energy, environment, politics, health care and film.

Briana Baker, Vice Chair

Briana Baker is an Energy Auditor 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.

Jim Dontje

Jim Dontje is the director of the Johnson Center for Environmental Innovation at Gustavus Adolphus College where he helps guide campus sustainability and renewable energy efforts. His undergraduate degree from Luther was in physics, and his graduate work was at the University of Minnesota in Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering. James has direct experience with installing solar thermal projects and with doing renewable energy site assessments, and sees energy conservation and renewable energy as a key to the long term economic viability of the region.

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

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 9-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.

Bob Johnson (previous Vice Chair)

Bob Johnson brings a background in geo-thermal energy transfer systems as well as civil and soil engineering experience. Bob served four years working in engineering with the U.S. Navy Seabees before continuing his education, earning a Business Management Degree from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Throughout his career, Bob has worn many hats including supervisor of the engineering department of the tenth largest Casino in the United States, working as a Sales Representative for a geo-thermal manufacturer and distributer, and work in the petroleum retail marketing field. Bob's interest and continuing education in energy conservation and renewable sources has continued to grow for over forty years. As an active volunteer, Bob has served his community for many years alongside organizations such as Boy Scouts, 4-H, and his local fire department. Bob's goal for serving the Task Force is to combine his passion for renewable energy and his love of public service by sharing his knowledge of renewables with the community.

Sandra Loerts

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.

Lou Schwartzkopf

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.

Jody Swanson

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 has taught educational classes to CPAs, attorneys and others statewide. UW-River Falls awarded her a BS degree in accounting with honors. She enjoys 55 solar panels, in two arrays, on her rural Mankato home.

Bill Ward

Bill Ward has been the facility administrator for School Sisters of Notre Dame on Good Counsel Hill in Mankato for over 27 years. In that time Bill has worked to promote sustainability in a variety of areas for the sister’s organization. Conducting a two year anemometer study for a possible wind turbine, in 2001 purchasing the first of many hybrid vehicles, lobbying for the purchase of the first electric vehicle in 2018, completing two large retrofit lighting projects as well as a water conservation program, Hill-wide recycling and an expansive composting program. In the last 9 years Bill has completed a number of solar projects on Good Counsel Hill. They include the installation of a 40KW rooftop solar array and the construction of two 1 MW solar projects. In addition, Bill facilitated the School Sisters of Notre Dame subscriptions to three community solar gardens that will enable them to be 100% renewable in their electrical energy purchases.

Katy Wortel

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.