On Monday, June 4, 2018, Minnesota Department of Commerce Commissioner Jessica Looman visited Red Wing. The focus of her visit was to congratulate Red Wing for achieving the top “Step 5” tier in the GreenStep Cities program. Minnesota GreenStep Cities is a voluntary program that challenges communities to achieve their goals in sustainability. The program outlines 29 best practices for cities to implement in the areas of transportation, buildings and lighting, environmental management, land use, and economic and community development. As cities take action on these best practices, they earn steps (the fifth step being the highest). Red Wing is one of only ten communities across Minnesota to earn the Step 5 designation, proving our community is taking strides towards energy and resource conservation and innovation.
Looman's visit began with a discussion with representatives from Red Wing. Paul Drotos, Sustainability Commission Coordinator, introduced the attendees. Mayor Sean Dowse welcomed Jessica Looman and explained the deep technological roots in Red Wing.
Looman covered questions such as “How do you envision building leadership? How is it done here in Red Wing?” Council member Evan Brown reported that Red Wing has had a commitment to sustainability issues that spans decades. "One part of that commitment," he said, "was the creation of our Sustainability Commission in 2008, inspired by citizen activists who wanted our city to do even more." Rich Huelskamp, Sustainability Commissioner, stated that the smaller size and connectedness of Red Wing, along with political will and education, allow good things to happen fairly quickly. Jay McCleary, retired Deputy Director for the City of Red Wing, explained how Red Wing uses the Sustainability Commission as a framework to advance programs and install solar arrays. “The projects came together because of the joint efforts between Xcel Energy, State of Minnesota, All Energy Star and Newport Partners," said McCleary. "The goals that were accomplished save money and energy and advance education."
Looman wrapped up the discussion by emphasizing the need to keep striving for the future. “The sustainability plan is about setting an example and continuously improving the plan," she said. "Everyone in this room are both champions and leaders. There are five key steps in advancing sustainability: motivation, education, champions, leaders and having goals."
The visit concluded with a tour of the solar arrays throughout the city. Though Red Wing has successfully attained the top tier in the GreenStep Cities program, our work is far from over. We will continue driving environmental stewardships forward in the months and years ahead.