Executive Advisory Council

GPI’s Executive Advisory Council is a diverse and distinguished group of individuals who are accomplished in their own fields of practice and share a passion for GPI’s mission. They contribute their time, expertise, strategic advice and financial resources to increase the Institute’s impact over time.

You can think of them as ambassadors for the Institute’s consensus-based approach to energy and climate solutions.

John Baumgartner Lewis Gilbert Erik Pratt
Jeff Heegaard Anu Ramaswami
Erin Heitkamp Don Shelby
Richard Hudson Jonathan Wilmshurst
Kathryn Draeger Jim Kubiak  

John Baumgartner

John Baumgartner served as the Assistant Commissioner of Agriculture for the State of Minnesota under Governor Al Quie, and was responsible for Minnesota’s agricultural regulations. He also served as the Midwest Area Director of the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service (now the FSA), as an appointee in the George H.W. Bush Administration. At ASCS he was responsible for the implementation of domestic farm policy in the states of Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin.

In 1989, John incorporated Baumgartner Environics, Inc. (BEI) where he is President & CEO. BEI addresses environmental issues of agriculture. Their flagship product is EPI Air®, a patented, breakthrough technology to scrub air in confinement buildings of dust, odors and pathogens. Clean air improves animal performance and livability, improves the environment for workers, and reduces emissions to the environment.  It conserves energy, too, using only 100 watts to scrub the air in a building of 15,000 square feet.

John is a past President and long-time member of the Great Plains Institute Board, and past President of the Board of West Central Partnership, a program of the University of Minnesota focused on a sustainable economy. In that role, he helped to guide the work of Minnesota’s Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs).

John was born and raised on a beef cattle, grain and sugar beet farm in west central Minnesota. He graduated from the University of Minnesota with a BS degree in Agronomy, Plant Genetics, and Agricultural Economics. He and his wife Cathy have three adult children and four grandchildren.

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Ronnie Brooks

Ronnie Brooks is the founding director of the James P. Shannon Leadership Institute, a program that provides a yearlong renewal experience for foundation and nonprofit organization leaders. In addition, Brooks continues to provide consultation to nonprofit and civic organizations in the areas of strategic planning, organizational development and leadership development.

Brooks has extensive experience in both the public and private sectors in Minnesota.  Most recently, she headed the Wilder Center for Communities, a division of the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation. Her career includes service as Special Assistant to the Governor of Minnesota and as Director of Majority Research for the Minnesota State Senate, and she has managed development projects for the mayors of both Minneapolis and Saint Paul. Brooks was also Vice President of the Keystone Center, a Colorado-based environmental policy organization; Executive Director of the Saint Paul Downtown Council; and Manager of Community Development and Policy Planning for the Dayton-Hudson (now Target) Corporation.

Brooks has played a leadership role in several Minnesota civic and professional organizations. She was president of both the Citizens League and the Mediation Center and a board member of the Voyager Outward Bound School, MAP for Nonprofits, Graywolf Press and the David Preus Leadership Council. She was a McKnight Fellow and an International Business Fellow. Additionally, she is a recipient of the Lloyd Short Award for Distinguished Public Service and of the YWCA Outstanding Leadership Award.

Brooks did her undergraduate work at the University of Michigan and received her Master of Arts degree in political science from Michigan State University. She has been on the faculty of the National Conference of State Legislatures’ Legislative Staff Management Institute, the University of Minnesota’s Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, the League of American Orchestra’s Executive Leadership Academy, the National Guild of Community Arts Education Leadership Institute and the University of St. Thomas Center for Nonprofit Management.

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Doug Cameron

Doug Cameron is Co-president and Director of First Green Partners, an early-stage investment firm focused on companies with technology related to renewable and fossil carbon.  Doug's career has spanned business, finance, and academia, including positions at Khosla Ventures, Piper Jaffray, Cargill, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In 2009, Doug was the recipient of the prestigious Raphael Katzen Award for his contributions in furthering the deployment and commercialization of biotechnology to produce fuels and chemicals from renewable resources.

Doug graduated from Duke University with a bachelor of science in engineering degree in biomedical engineering. He earned a Ph.D. in biochemical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Prior to attending MIT, he was the fourth employee of Advanced Harvesting Systems, an agriculture start-up company backed by International Harvester.

He is a Fellow of the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE), a Fellow of the Society of Industrial Microbiology (SIM), and a Fellow of the American Society for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).  Doug is also a consulting professor of chemical engineering at Stanford University.

He is a Fellow of the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE), a Fellow of the Society of Industrial Microbiology (SIM), and a Fellow of the American Society for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).  Doug is also a consulting professor of chemical engineering at Stanford University.

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Mike Conley

Mike Conley, Founder & CEO of Weathering the Storm LLC, also serves as Chairman & CEO of the Conley Family Foundation. As a former business executive, pilot, author and lecturer, he has written and spoken frequently on the topics covered in his presentation. He graduated from the University of Minnesota, after serving in the U.S. Navy, and later completed a graduate business program at Stanford University. Married with children and grandchildren, and author of the award winning book, Lethal Trajectories, he resides in Plymouth, Minnesota and serves on several boards.

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Kathryn Draeger

Kathryn Draeger is the Statewide Director for the University of Minnesota Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships (UM Regional Partnerships). This citizen-driven program connects communities to their land-grant University to advance sustainable agriculture, natural resources, clean energy, and sustainable tourism. Kathy Draeger comes to this position having founded and run two successful environmentally based businesses; Environmental Ground, Inc. and Sustainability International Inc.. Kathy holds a doctorate in water resources with her Ph.D. dissertation focusing on local watershed management in Minnesota. Her Masters degree is in Soil Science. She is the recipient of a Bush Leadership Fellowship and was a MacArthur Scholar at the University of Minnesota. She served as an Environmental Protection Commissioner in Iowa and was appointed to the Governor's Roundtable for Sustainable Development in Minnesota.  Kathy was appointed by Governor Dayton in 2012 to serve on the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency board, where she served as agricultural representative and Vice Chair.

Kathy and her husband Mike and their three children moved from St. Paul to live and farm 320 acres in rural Big Stone County in order to be a part of rural revitalization and to walk the talk on sustainable farming. They produce organic grass fed beef, chicken, eggs, small grains, and electricity from wind power. 

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Lewis Gilbert

Lewis E. Gilbert is Managing Director and Chief Operating Officer of the Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota. Gilbert is responsible for inspiring collaboration among existing IonE programs and creating new endeavors that advance the Institute’s mission. He also oversees the operational aspects of IonE’s facilitator role across the whole of the University of Minnesota. He joined IonE in late 2011.

Gilbert’s career as an academic entrepreneur has focused on the design, implementation and management of complex interdisciplinary activities in large research universities. He was a key architect in the creation of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and a central figure in the revitalization of the Nelson Institute at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Among the major activities he has worked on are: creation of the International Research Institute for climate prediction, integration of CIESIN into the Earth Institute, creation of the Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts, and evolution of the Wildlife Data Integration Network. He has also served as a consultant to Arizona State University, CINCS LLC and the Twycross Zoo.

Most recently, Gilbert taught “Introduction to Science, Technology and Environmental Policy,” a required course in the Graduate  Program: Science Technology and Environmental Policy in the Humphrey  School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota. Gilbert has taught regularly in the MPA program at Columbia and in the Business School at the University of Wisconsin. He has also designed undergraduate curricula and taught occasionally at the undergraduate level. He has been an invited speaker at a wide range of conferences in the U.S. and abroad. His courses and lectures focus on the human role in the evolution of Earth and on the inherent complexity of natural and human systems.

His intellectual interests are highly varied and his writings have appeared in venues ranging from the Journal of Geophysical Research to posts in the AAAS blog Qualia.

Gilbert listens to and collects music from off the beaten path. He likes to fancy himself a cook and the reviews are generally favorable.

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Jeff Heegaard

A lifelong entrepreneur, Jeff has made a career of building businesses and coaching leaders, companies, nonprofits and foundations to grow and adapt to the innate challenges of growing businesses in a climate of constant change. Jeff likes to infuse fun, curiosity and enthusiasm into everything he does, and much of his work extends his belief that long-term solutions to intractable challenges are possible. He has a passion for finding the complex balance between protecting Minnesota’s delicate natural attributes and growing a vibrant and sustainable economy.

Jeff is a partner with the CoCo Collaborative. He is a Humphrey Policy Fellow and a graduate of the University of MN.

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Erin Heitkamp

Erin Heitkamp joined Wenck in January 2015 as a Global Sustainability Practice Leader, in support of the Environmental Compliance and Permitting Services Group.  Erin has worked in the field of environmental management for more than 15 years and has held positions as a consultant, leader at a business-oriented environmental NGO and multiple positions with environmental management roles and responsibilities within the airline industry.  In her most recent role at Delta Air Lines, Erin led the development and execution of environmental and sustainability policy and strategy.  Some of her responsibilities included tracking and analyzing climate change and alternative fuels policy, legislative and regulatory developments world-wide and communicating relevant impacts to internal stakeholders and senior leadership.  Prior to the Delta-NWA merger, she held positions in the area of environmental regulatory oversight, fuel and fuel services purchasing, and corporate real estate while at Northwest Airlines.

Erin holds a B.S. from the University of Wisconsin- Madison and a Master’s in Environmental Management (M.E.M) from Yale University. Erin’s family of four includes her husband, Christopher, and two daughters.  In her spare time she enjoys traveling, reading, gardening, running and community.

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Richard Hudson

Dr. Richard Hudson is the Director of Science Production at TPT-Twin Cities Public Television in St. Paul, Minnesota. He oversees TPT’s science productions for both adults and children.

Current projects include the series DragonflyTV—taped on location in science museums; a new science series for girls called SciGirls; and The Quest to See Infinity, a NOVA series on the history of telescopes for the International Year of Astronomy in 2009. Richard is also Executive Producer of a new series based on Make magazine – Make:  television. For Nova, he recently oversaw the production Absolute Zero and the Conquest of Cold, with Meridian and Windfall Productions.

Richard was Executive Producer of the PBS science series, Newton’s Apple, and directed the creation of a range of science-learning products, including interactive software, science kits, educator’s guides and web sites. He is a media advisor to the new Center for the Advancement of Informal Science Education (CAISE), an NSF initiative to strengthen the network of producers of science television and build connections to other informal science education organizations.

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Jim Kubiak

James V. Kubiak is a member of the Executive Partners Consortium with Edurant Business Solutions, Inc., of St. Paul, Minnesota.  The consortium is a business and technology consulting and training group that facilitates and manages enterprise wide technology related change.  Jim has spent the past eight years consulting with clients improving their business processes associated with sales, marketing, distribution, customer service and support. His clients range from start up companies to a FORTUNE 500 corporation.

Prior to establishing his consulting practice. Jim was co-founder and CEO of Azimuth Corporation, a high technology graphics provider.  Azimuth’s strategic partners and investors included 3M and Deluxe Corporation.

Jim has also been an officer of and/or held management positions with Baxter Laboratories, United States Leasing Corporation, Bausch and Lomb, Pennzoil and Dicomed Corporation.  While at Bausch and Lomb, he was a member of the team responsible for the initial marketing of the first soft contact lenses.

Jim is an outside director on four corporate boards.  He served on the Minnesota Governors Round Table on Sustainable Development, co-chaired its Land Use Committee and is one of the founders of the Minnesota Center for Sustainable Development in addition to chairing the board of directors.

He is a graduate of the University of St. Thomas, Syracuse University Graduate School of Sales and Marketing Management, and as an A.E.A. Fellow, completed the Stanford Graduate School of Business program on Managing high Technology Companies.

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Erik Pratt

Erik is Director of Structured Finance for TerraForm Power, a subsidiary of SunEdison. Erik joined the SunEdison team developing its YieldCo investment vehicle, leading to the successful IPO of TerraForm Power in 2014. In his current role he is on a team based in Excelsior that acquires third-party renewable energy assets for TerraForm. Erik has worked previously at Everstream Energy Capital Management, Meridian Clean Fuels, and Northland Capital Holdings with a continuing emphasis on solar, wind and renewable fuels. He has acquired, structured and financed over $2Bn of renewable energy assets. Erik received his B.S. from the University of Minnesota, M.S. (Environmental & Natural Resources Planning) from the University of Wisconsin‐Madison, and his MBA from the University of St. Thomas.

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Anu Ramaswami

Professor Anu Ramaswami is the Charles M. Denny, Jr., Chair of Science, Technology, and Public Policy at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs and a professor of bioproducts and biosystems engineering in the College of Food, Agricultural, and Natural Sciences at the University of Minnesota. Ramaswami is among the leading scholars on sustainable urban infrastructure and has seen her work adopted as policies and protocols for developing sustainable cities in the United States and internationally. She is the director and lead Principal Investigator of several NSF Grants related to Sustainable Cities, including "Partnerships for International Research and Education – Developing Low-Carbon Cities in the US, China and India," and the recently awarded grant for "Sustainability Research Network - Integrated Urban Infrastructure Solutions for Environmentally Sustainable, Healthy, and Livable Cities."

Ramaswami’s research spans environmental modeling, environmental technologies, industrial ecology, sustainable infrastructure design, urban systems analysis, and integration of science and technology with policy and planning for real-world implementation in communities. She has developed novel interdisciplinary education programs and resources in these diverse areas. She is the lead author of a graduate-level textbook on integrated environmental modeling.

Ramaswami received her B.S. in chemical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology–Madras, India, and her M.S. and PhD in civil and environmental engineering from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. She serves as chair of the newly founded Sustainable Urban Systems section at the International Society of Industrial Ecology, and represents the United States in various international urban sustainability networks.

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Don Shelby

Don Shelby is widely considered one of the best, and most decorated, local news anchors and reporters in the country. He has won three National Emmys and two George Foster Peabody awards, which are the broadcast equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize. He was awarded the National Distinguished Service Award by the Society of Professional Journalists, the International Radio and Television News Directors Association’s First Place honors for International Investigative Reporting, and Columbia University’s duPont Award for Investigative Journalism. He retired from daily reporting and anchoring in November 2010, after forty-five years in the industry.

Since his retirement, Don continues his work in environmental journalism, reporting for MinnPost, the on-line daily, and is a member of the Climate Science Rapid Response Team roundtable.  Lawmakers have said, for the record, that Don’s public service reporting on these issues paved the way for Minnesota to become one of the nation’s leading states in energy conservation and policy. He is a member of the International Society of Environmental Journalists, and was a member of the board of directors of I-R-E, Investigative Reporters and Editors, the nation’s premier investigative journalism society.

Don and his wife, Barbara, have been together for nearly forty years, and have three grown daughters and three grandchildren.

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Jonathan Wilmshurst

For the past five years, Jonathan Wilmshurst has run the aggregate group for McCarthy-Bush Corporation, a family owned group of companies based in Davenport, IA. He serves as President for both Linwood Mining and Minerals – a 2 million tons per year underground limestone mine and lime burning facility, and Superior Mineral Company – a sister company to Linwood that is a single operation mineral filler plant in Savage, MN. Prior to this, Jonathan was the owner and sole proprietor of the consulting company, Jess Resources, where he consulted in aggregate related matters to a wide range of public entities, businesses, and individuals. The largest project he managed was the evaluation of mineral resources on the 5,000 acre UMore property in Rosemount, MN, owned by the University of Minnesota. The property is now being actively mined.

Jonathan spent 22 years with Aggregate Industries, PLC, a publicly held, UK-based company (now part of the Holcim group). From 1994-2001 he served as Regional President of the Minnesota and North Dakota operations with 1,000 staff and revenues of $180M. Activities at nearly fifty sites included crushed stone, sand and gravel, recycled concrete, ready mix concrete, asphalt, concrete masonry, pre-cast concrete, contracting, trucking and a marine operation. More than a dozen companies and many aggregate bearing properties were acquired and/or absorbed into the business during this time.

Jonathan received his BA in Geology from Oxford University in the UK, Professional Certification at the Institute of Quarrying in Doncaster MIHE, UK, a Diploma in Industrial Management from Camborne College, UK and an MBA from the University of St. Thomas. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Quarrying. His previous Appointments/Affiliations are as Member: MN Governor’s Sustainable Development Initiative, Mineral’s Team; MN Governor’s Sustainable Development Round Table; and Governor appointed member of the Mineral Coordinating Committee. He’s been a Participant of the Aspen Institute’s Series on the Environment roundtable, and a Past Chair of Great River Greening, Great Plains Institute for Sustainable Development, and The Nature Conservancy – Minnesota and Dakotas Chapter.

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