Our Board of Directors are committed individuals with experience in law, policy, education, finance, non-profits, marketing, communications, and industry who have a passion for our mission.
Directors serve on the Board for three-year terms. They provide fiduciary oversight, strategic vision and direction and financial support for the organization. We are proud to have the energy, time and dedication from the following Board members:
Jonathan Dettmann – Chair
Jonathan Dettmann practices litigation in the areas of commercial disputes, intellectual property, government contracts and environmental law, including climate change at Faegre Baker Daniels LLP. In the environmental area, Jon has worked on matters involving oil spills, wildland firefighting, wilderness protection and endangered species. He was on the litigation team that defended the fishermen in Exxon’s appeal of the punitive damages award stemming from the Exxon Valdez oil spill. He has also represented wilderness groups in multiple cases involving wilderness areas from Georgia to Alaska, and is a frequent speaker and writer on wilderness and climate change issues.
Jennifer Birnbaum – Vice Chair
Jennifer is the Director for Compliance and Regulatory Affairs at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota. Jennifer brings experience in governance, legal affairs, passion for our mission and an interest in our youth programming. Jennifer resides in the west metro with her family and has two sons.
Sean P. Smith – Treasurer
Sean P. Smith is an Investment Manager and Shareholder at Accredited Investors Inc., a comprehensive wealth management firm located in the Twin Cities. Sean is a CFA charter holder, and is a member of Accredited’s investment committee. He lives in Plymouth, Minnesota with his wife and son. They enjoy spending as much time as possible outdoors, whether at regional parks and trails, or at their family cabin in northern Wisconsin.
Joann Knuth – Secretary
Joann Knuth is an Education Consultant and the past Executive Director of the Minnesota Association of Secondary School principals. Knuth has over 40 years of experience in education as an educator, principal, and superintendent in the St. Paul Public Schools. She has led efforts to create a vision for the high school of the 21st century and an evaluation model and process for Minnesota’s principals. She lives in New Brighton with her husband Dan and has two grown children.
Natalie Cook – Director
Natalie is an associate organizer at the Sierra Club working on the Beyond Coal Campaign. She graduated from Hamline University with a degree in Environmental Studies and Legal Studies in 2012 and was the President of the student group, MPIRG. Climate Generation’s YEA! MN Coordinator from 2013-2015, Natalie knows that young people are not only tomorrow’s leaders, but today’s. Natalie brings organizing experience and an inside view of our youth programming.
Leigh Currie – Director
Leigh Currie practices environmental law as a senior staff attorney at Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy. For many years Currie led wilderness trips to the Boundary Waters, Montana, Wyoming, Alaska and the Canadian Arctic and continues to enjoy the outdoors with her family. Leigh is the mother of two and lives in St. Anthony Park with her husband, Peter.
Andrew Gibbons – Director
Andrew Gibbons is an attorney at Stinson Leonard Street LLP in Minneapolis, practicing in the areas of energy and environmental law, with a focus on renewable energy projects. Andrew has been a supporter of renewable energy and climate change solutions since studying the geophysical sciences as an undergraduate, and is excited to put his passion for the cause to work by furthering the Climate Generation mission. Andrew lives in St. Paul with his wife and two daughters.
Barry Greenwald – Director
Barry Greenwald has been a science educator at Harding High School in the St. Paul Public Schools since 1998. Barry has taught classes in Biology, Environmental Science, Earth Science, and even some 9th grade Physical Science early in my career. Prior to choosing a career in education, Barry did agricultural research at the University of Minnesota and sales/administration with a couple of private companies. He has attended several Climate Generation Summer Institutes for Climate Change Education and the Education Program Committee.
Cathy Kennedy – Director
With more than 25 years of experience with strategic communication, Cathy focuses on communicating complicated public policy issues; connecting all types of clients with the media; and developing creative message strategies. Before starting her independent consulting business in 2002, Cathy was a senior vice president at Weber Shandwick Public Relations in Minneapolis. She has earned numerous awards including the prestigious Silver Anvil award in public affairs from the Public Relations Society of America. Cathy’s other experience includes public service as the press secretary for a Minnesota Gov. Al Quie and media director for the Minnesota House Republican Caucus. Cathy is the former president of the Minnesota Public Relations Society of America and currently serves on the A. Q. Miller Journalism Advisory Council at Kansas State University and is a public affairs volunteer for the American Red Cross.
Ron Kroese – Director
Prior to retiring from The McKnight Foundation in early 2015, Ron served for nine years as a program officer and program director for the Foundation’s Mississippi River Program. He currently is a senior fellow at the University of Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture’s Endowed Chair Program where he is conducting a video archiving project. The project features interviews with people who played key roles over the past three decades in the formation and development of the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. Before coming to The McKnight Foundation, he served as executive director of Minnesota Environmental Partnership, a coalition of nonprofit groups focused on strengthening Minnesota’s environmental and conservation policies. In 1982, he co-founded the Minnesota-based sustainable agriculture organization, Land Stewardship Project, serving as executive director for 11 years.
Ben Passer — Director
Ben Passer is the Senior Policy Associate for Energy Performance, leading Fresh Energy’s work to expand energy efficiency in affordable multifamily housing, as well as policies to support access for low- and moderate-income households in community solar programs. Ben has testified before the Public Utilities Commission and also has experience serving as Fresh Energy’s attorney in utility rate cases. Ben worked as a law clerk at the Minnesota Department of Commerce and had multiple internships with Honeywell International, Governor Mark Dayton, and Senator John Marty. Ben holds a BA in political science from the University of Minnesota and a Juris Doctor from William Mitchell College of Law.
Roopali Phadke – Director
Roopali is an Associate Professor of Environmental Studies, Environmental policy and politics at Macalester College. Roopali’s research and teaching is at the nexus of environmental studies, international development and science and technology studies. Her current research focuses on domestic and international energy and climate issues. She is also a board member of World Learning/School for International Training and lives in St. Paul with her husband and three children.
Beth Soholt — Director
Beth Soholt is the Executive Director of Wind on the Wires (WOW). Launched in 2001, WOW’s mission is to overcome the barriers to bringing wind power to market. Soholt brings more than 15 years experience working with the electric industry in various capacities. At WOW she directs work in the areas of technical/transmission planning, state regulatory proceedings, legislative education and outreach. Soholt holds a law degree from Hamline University Law School, St. Paul, Minnesota and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Luther College, Decorah, Iowa.
Will Steger – Founder & Director
Will Steger is known for his numerous polar expeditions, deep understanding of the environment and his efforts to raise international awareness to environmental threats. Steger has been an eyewitness to the on-going impacts of climate change. He is a seasoned polar explorer, educator, and the author of several books including North to the Pole. Over the Top of the World, and Saving the Earth.