Willmar’s GreenStep Cities program powers ahead

March 2023

When an organization experiences staff turnover, it often has to reboot projects. The City of Willmar staff and community members did just that with the GreenStep Cities program, and experienced impressive results.

Minnesota GreenStep Cities is a voluntary challenge, assistance, and recognition program to help cities achieve their sustainability and quality-of-life goals.

This free continuous improvement program, managed by a public-private partnership (CERTs is one of the partners), is based upon a menu of 29 optional best practices.

During 2022, the City of Willmar's new staff and community members were reintroduced to the GreenStep Cities program. Residents interested in the initiative were updated on the city's progress of the past several years and were able to weigh in on future efforts.

Sara Sietsema, environmental specialist with the city, helped steer the process along.

“Recognizing that new staff need time to get up to speed on all their programs has been important, as well as sharing that with the community group in order to manage everyone's expectations of what can and should be accomplished in a certain time frame.”

Environmental Specialist with the City of Willmar Sara Sietsema

City and community staff met multiple times to review the steps and best practices that had been accomplished, and update the GreenStep Cities reporting matrix. Willmar was able to complete 10 actions under 7 of the GreenStep Cities Best Practices, one-fourth of the program’s 29 Best Practices.

In total, the city completed 12 Best Practices since joining in 2012. They achieved Step 2 and are certainly closer to Step 3 with this recent community effort.

“It’s amazing to see Willmar use the CERTs Seed Grant to reboot GreenStep Cities participation. It goes to show that a little funding can go a long way, especially when efforts are made to involve city staff across departments and invite community members to the review and planning process.”

GreenStep Cities and Tribal Nations Coordinator Kristin Mroz-Risse

West Central CERT Regional Coordinator Jacob Selseth was also impressed, "Willmar is such a regional hub here in west central Minnesota, it's great to see how the team is bringing clean energy concepts into their community in their own way."

One of the keys to the success of the Willmar GreenStep Cities program was the involvement of community members and city staff from different departments. By working together, they were able to accomplish more than any one person or group could on their own. And, as Kristin Mroz-Risse noted, the small CERTs Seed Grant they received to reboot the program went a long way.

The GreenStep Cities program is a great example of how cities can work toward sustainability and quality-of-life goals by implementing best practices and involving the community in the process. By continuing to work together, the City of Willmar can make even greater strides in the years to come.

Clean Energy Focus: Rebooting city engagement with Green Step Cities

West Central CERT Seed Grant: $2,000

People Involved and Reached: 18 

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