2023 CERTs Leadership Transition Plans

March 2023

On March 8, CERTs Statewide Director Lissa Pawlisch will start a new position at the Minnesota Department of Commerce as the Director of the Energy Development Section.

The Energy Development Section, per Commerce's description of this role, exists in order to accelerate equitable, affordable, resilient, and reliable clean energy deployment in Minnesota.

In this role, Lissa will provide oversight to the two State Energy Program units, as well as the Energy Environmental Review and Analysis unit. Her role there will include programs relating to energy financing, building efficiency, Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act funding, Inflation Reduction Act funding, solar siting, and more.

We might be biased on this, but we can’t imagine a better person for the job! 

Through this transition, Joel Haskard, Melissa Birch, and Diana McKeown will be leading CERTs as Interim Co-Directors. 

Joel Haskard has been CERTs Co-Director for the University of Minnesota Extension’s Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships. He has over twenty years experience coordinating and managing community clean energy activities and has worked with CERTs since 2004.

Melissa Birch has been with CERTs since 2017, and has served as CERTs’ Rural Energy Development Manager and Central CERT Coordinator. Prior to CERTs, she worked in teaching, research, and the nonprofit sector, focusing on the space where community, economy, and environment come together.

Diana McKeown has been the Metro CERT Director at the Great Plains Institute. Diana has led the Metro region of CERTs since October 2007. She has extensive experience building strategic campaigns and coalitions.

CERTs is a partnership of four organizations, and the executive directors have each shared a few words about Lissa’s great work with CERTs. 

“Lissa Pawlisch was on the ground floor of creating the Clean Energy Resources Teams as a Regional Sustainable Development Partnership (RSDP) graduate student more than 20 years ago. She heard the ideas and needs of community members around the state and built that into a robust, well organized, impactful, and accessible clean energy resource for all Minnesotans. She leads with heart, fierce commitment, and calm, while steadfastly staying true to the concept of partnership. And what a partnership it is!

“CERTs brings together our best ways of knowing and doing by having a shared governance among the Southwest Regional Development Commission (representing local units of government), The Great Plains Institute (representing nonprofit sector), the Minnesota Department of Commerce (state agency) and University of Minnesota Extension (academia). It is no small feat that Lissa helped to build a firm foundation upon which all Minnesotans can have access to community-based clean energy resources.”

—Kathryn J. Draeger, Ph.D.
Statewide Director, U of M Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships

“Every state in the union should have what Lissa Pawlisch has helped create here in Minnesota: Clean Energy Resource Teams that help every region of the state achieve their own, locally-driven clean energy goals. In addition to being incredibly smart and capable, Lissa is also deeply kind and endlessly optimistic about what is possible when people who live in a place decide to take action to make life better. Among her many achievements in leading CERTS is having fostered a team, culture and CERTS partnership that will not only survive her departure, but thrive. I couldn’t be prouder that the Great Plains Institute is a core CERTS partner, or more eager to continue working with Lissa in her new role with the MN Department of Commerce helping the state lead on clean energy.”

—Rolf Nordstrom, President & CEO
Great Plains Institute

“I have been so grateful to Lissa over the years for the camaraderie and the leadership she has provided. As someone who doesn't work in the energy field full time, I always knew I could depend on her to bring me up to speed when my attention had been focused elsewhere. Her ability to both administer a great program and take the lead on CERTs legislative issues marks her as a truly exceptional talent, I know she will be a valued member of Michelle's team at Commerce. She will be missed, but I also know that the program is in good hands with Joel, Diana and Melissa, and will continue to make great strides in bringing clean energy resources to all of the residents of Minnesota.”

—Jay Trusty, Executive Director
Southwest Regional Development Commission

“Lissa has successfully developed the Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs) over the last twenty years with passion, compassion, dedication, and enthusiasm. Her ability in connecting communities and resources across the state is both admirable and highly impactful.

“As a core partner of CERTs, I also have confidence in the team going forward - continuing in the way Lissa led - as localized, enthusiastic, and thoughtful leaders, ready to support each and every community in developing a clean energy future. 

“I am deeply honored to have Lissa join team Commerce as the Energy Development Section Director and look forward to ways she will continue to strengthen the partnership by bringing her knowledge of CERTs and her breadth of experience to the Department of Commerce.”

—Michelle Gransee, Deputy Commissioner
MN Department of Commerce, Energy Division

Looking forward, CERTs and all of our great partners will be building on our past experiences to deepen engagement around the major opportunities we see in community-based clean energy: efficiency, beneficial electrification, and renewable energy. 

Sign up for our email newsletter

We encourage reuse and republishing of this story. All Clean Energy Resource Teams stories are made available under the Creative Commons Attribution license, meaning you can share and adapt the work as long as you give us credit. We'd also love it if you link back to the original piece. Have questions or want to chat? Drop us a line.