Clean Energy Resource Teams staff work across the state to help communities with their energy projects.
2018 Staff Retreat
Colby Abazs is the Northeast CERT Coordinator. Colby grew up in an off-grid home powered by solar and wind energy. As a kid, the batteries had to be above 50 volts to be allowed to watch movies. This sparked his interest in energy production and usage at a young age, a passion that he has continued to pursue throughout life. While in college, Colby took on leadership roles in student governance on both the college and statewide levels, allowing him to expand his community engagement skills. He recently completed a ten month trip exploring cultures and communities around the world and is now settling into the family homestead in Finland, MN. Colby is excited about all the momentum around clean energy projects in the Northeast CERT region and across the state.
Kristoffer Acuña joined the Great Plains Institute (GPI) in 2018 and is a program assistant with the Communities Program, working primarily with the Metro Clean Energy Resource Team (Metro CERT). In this role, Kris works on the Cities Charging Ahead! project, aimed at helping MN cities understand and become what it means to be electric vehicle ready. Kris conducted research at GPI as part of the REAMP City Action Team, a coalition of groups from five midwestern states examining what cities are doing to address climate change. He also assists with additional projects for GPI’s work as part of the Metro CERT and other projects that are part of our Communities Program. Always having a love for the natural world, Kris graduated from Yale University with a bachelor of science in astrophysics.
Melissa Birch is the Central CERT Coordinator. Melissa grew up in north-central Minnesota and has a B.A. in French from Gustavus Adolphus College, an M.A. in International Relations and Environmental Policy from Boston University, and a Ph.D. in International Relations from the Fletcher School at Tufts University, where she focused on environmental policy and economic development. She has worked and volunteered in research, non-profit organizations, natural resource management, and education in locations ranging from Mexico to Massachusetts to Minnesota. She is passionate about finding ways that clean energy can help meet communities’ needs.
Marie Donahue works jointly with the University of Minnesota Extension Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships (RSDP) and the Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs) as our Sustainability Storyteller. Marie develops stories that highlight the champions and projects inspiring sustainability and clean energy action across Minnesota, and supports a variety of RSDP and CERTs communications efforts. Marie comes to RSDP with a master’s in natural resources and the environment from the University of Michigan and bachelor’s in environmental studies and economics from the University of Chicago. She has worked for the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and the University of Minnesota Institute on the Environment.
Fritz Ebinger is the Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs) Rural Energy Development Program Manager for the University of Minnesota’s Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships and Extension. In this role, he works on energy efficiency and renewable energy initiatives with agricultural producers and rural businesses to reduce farm and business production costs and advance utility conservation planning. Fritz is a graduate of St. John’s University and served in the Peace Corps as an Agroforestry Volunteer in Panama. He then attended Drake Law School as a Public Service Scholar where he focused on agricultural, environmental, and natural resources law and wrote for the Drake Agricultural Law Journal. Following graduation and passing the bar, Fritz served as a law clerk in Minnesota’s Third Judicial District before starting his clean energy career in wind and rural energy matters. Se habla Español.
Joel Haskard is the Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs) Co-Director for the University of Minnesota’s Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships and Extension. Joel has over fifteen years experience coordinating and managing community and economic development activities in the U.S. and abroad. A jack of all trades, Joel works across CERTs programming, and his current focus areas include MN Energy Stories, electric vehicles (EVs), and partnering with utilities on energy efficiency outreach.
Peter Lindstrom is the Manager of Public Sector & Community Engagement with the Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs) at the University of Minnesota’s Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships and Extension. In this role Peter spearheads outreach and education to local units of government (i.e., cities, counties, townships, school districts) about approaches for financing energy efficiency and renewable energy improvements. Peter also represents District 10 on the Metropolitan Council, and served as the mayor of Falcon Heights for 10 years. Most recently, Peter was Assistant Director of the Center for Science, Technology & Public Policy at the University of Minnesota Humphrey School, Executive Director of SciMathMN, and the Vice President of Public Affairs at the Minnesota High Tech Association. Peter is also involved with the Roseville Area Schools Foundation, Family Housing Fund, and Northwest Youth and Family Services.
Maggie Kozak is the Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs) Event Programming & Seed Grants Manager for the University of Minnesota’s Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships and Extension. She has worked domestically and internationally on community development issues. At CERTs, Maggie plans, organizes, promotes, and executes events big and small, statewide. She enjoys managing CERTs seed grants and working with regional CERT Steering Committees. In addition, Maggie reviews publications and tends to the contracts and administrivia that make the world go ‘round. Maggie enjoys biking to work, running, and yoga.
Diana McKeown is the Metro CERT Director at the Great Plains Institute. Diana has led the Metro region of CERTs since October 2007, during which time she has coordinated and participated in a number of clean energy initiatives, including: Apple Valley’s Better Energy Program; Neighborhood Energy Service (a partnership with Neighborhood Energy Connection and others to deliver residential energy workshops and home visits in all 17 neighborhoods in Saint Paul); an energy makeover of the Lao Family Community Center in partnership with Xcel Energy. Diana has also collaborated on the launch of a number of projects/programs including GreenStep Cities, Minnesota Schools Cutting Carbon, and a variety of energy savings measures through CERTified Campaigns. Diana has coordinated successful events, forums and tours, including the annual Brake for Breakfast gathering and the SolarWorks workshop series. Prior to joining the CERTs team, Diana worked for over 14 years at Clean Water Action where she gained experience with media work, grassroots organizing, campaign planning, lobbying, and fundraising. Diana has extensive experience building strategic campaigns and coalitions. Diana has a state certificate in residential energy auditing from Dunwoody and holds a B.S. in Environmental Studies from the University of Minnesota.
Chris Meyer is the Southeast CERT Coordinator for the University of Minnesota’s Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships. She recently earned an MS in Environmental Policy Management with an emphasis on Energy and Sustainability from Denver University. Chris also has a BFA in printmaking from the University of Minnesota and a BS in Economics from Drake University. A personal journey which started with a desire to install solar panels lead to a DIY project for a net-zero-energy home remodel, becoming a residential PV site assessor, community solar organizing, and coordinating the Minnesota Renewable Energy Society’s statewide renewable energy tour. Chris is an Extension Master Gardener and helps organize and work in a community garden that donates produce to local food shelves. She is also working with the City of Winona to implement a residential rain garden program.
Lissa Pawlisch is the Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs) Director for the University of Minnesota Extension’s Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships. Over the past fifteen years she has guided CERTs—a unique program partnership designed to connect individuals and communities to the resources they need to identify and implement community scale clean energy projects. After an environmental consulting stint, she got her Masters in Science, Technology and Environmental Policy. Lissa is passionate about working directly with communities to help them understand their energy options, the values that drive their projects, how technologies and practices can be deployed, and how to harness community capacity to affect change. Her current focus areas include assisting local jurisdictions with clean energy, advancing collaborations with utilities, and community solar gardens.
Jacob Selseth is the West Central CERT Coordinator. Selseth grew up around hands-on folks that build and install the things that make our buildings work. This led him down a path where he could leverage that background and build on it while earning his B.S. in Energy Management from Moorhead State University. He began as a intern at Moorhead Public Service in a time when they were developing the “Capture the Wind” program that provides wind energy to its customers. From then on he was hooked on helping people make wise decisions on how they use energy and choose the best technologies to achieve their goals. He became a Certified Energy Manger with the Association of Energy Engineers to better help lower energy bills, reduce carbon footprint, and increase production while maximizing efficiency. Jacob has enjoyed working from multiple sides of the meter including generation, distribution, and directly for consumers. This gives him a unique understanding of each perspective and aides greatly in navigating the industry to find the best energy solutions. Jacob likes to think we can always be improving and doing things better. He looks at all types of energy and technology to best achieve peoples’ goals. When not thinking of ways to better use energy, he keeps his feet on the ground with his three boys working in the barn, gardening, and finding other ways to play in the dirt. When he wants to pick up the pace a bit, he is an avid alpine skier and triathlete.
As the Program Associate for Clean Energy and Resilient Communities with Northwest CERT and RSDP, Stassen works with local governments, nonprofits, foundations, and partners across Northwest Minnesota to connect local sustainability and clean energy projects to research, education, and resources at the University of Minnesota. Stassen spent 18 years as a college football coach at Valley City State, North Dakota State and University of Minnesota Crookston. His next career move was as Executive Director of the Crookston Area Chamber of Commerce, which included being director of the United Way of Crookston and Crookston Convention and Visitors Bureau. That opportunity led him to working most recently as City Administrator for the City of Crookston the past six years. Shannon has lived in Crookston for over 20 years and is the father of four children.
Dan Thiede has directed communications work for energy efficiency and renewable energy programs in Minnesota for more than a decade, and was honored to receive a 40 Under 40 award from Midwest Energy News in 2017. In his role with the Clean Energy Resource Teams, Dan is responsible for everything from goal-setting and big-picture strategy to the daily management of websites, social media, outreach and marketing, public relations and publicity, design and publications and communications staff. Dan has an M.A. in Strategic Communications from the University of Minnesota and an undergrad degree from the University of St. Thomas in geography and English writing, as well as a minor in environmental studies.
Alexis Troschinetz is the Behavioral Science and Evaluation Manager with the Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs) at the University of Minnesota’s Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships and Extension. She infuses behavior change science into CERTs programs; builds relationships and offers programming to utilities; and evaluates CERTs’ programs by tracking quantitative and qualitative metrics. She’s presented at the American Evaluation Association; Behavior, Energy and Climate Change; Association for Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education; and Energy Design conferences (as well as at the CERTs Conference, of course!) and she’s authored four peer-reviewed journal articles. Alexis loves volunteering and and currently serves on her neighborhood’s Board of Directors. Alexis holds her professional engineering license and has a B.S. and an M.S. in Environmental Engineering from Michigan Technological University, Sustainable Futures Institute. Alexis practiced Environmental Engineering for over 7 years at two consulting firms prior to CERTs, working on sustainable operations, remediation, and stormwater.
Jason earned a BA in International Relations and French from Morningside College and an MA in Public Administration from Western Illinois University. He taught English in Madagascar as a Peace Corps Volunteer and has experience working as a Community Development Specialist and as a supervisor in corrections and human services settings. Before joining the SRDC he was the Assistant Dean of Adult Education at Muscatine Community College for about six years. When he is not attending meetings, he enjoys cycling, lifting, and spending time with his wife Christina, son Camden, and border collie Benji.
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