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 community solar garden. Briana graduated from Gustavus Adolphus College and has since been involved with a variety of nonprofits, including the Lutheran Volunteer Corps and Vermont Housing and Conservation Board AmeriCorps.

Katy Wortel, Secretary

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.