This blog is one in a series that celebrates the variety of professionals who have been touched by the Great Plains Institute (GPI). Together—GPI’s spring fundraising campaign—showcases people who work in multiple industries and have various constituents and customers, but all play an important role in helping America transform its energy system.
NAME: Larry Kraft
AFFILIATION: City of St. Louis Park, Minnesota
TITLE: At Large Council Member
Having the Biggest Impact and Getting Things Done for Our Children
After a successful 25-year career in the technology industry, Larry Kraft decided that he had to make a change. Terrified by the world that our society is leaving for our children—including his own—Larry became the executive director of iMatter Youth in 2014. iMatter is a nonprofit organization that helps young leaders to understand and use their power to fight climate change at the local level.
From Advocacy to Implementation
Larry was first introduced to GPI while at iMatter through the RE-AMP Network, a collaborative group of organizations that aim to equitably eliminate greenhouse gas emissions in the Midwest by 2050. While Larry recognized GPI’s influence and knowledge across that organization, he especially took notice of GPI’s understanding of how small cities can take impactful climate action.
In his home community of St. Louis Park, Minnesota, several young leaders successfully advocated for their local government to complete a climate action plan. GPI submitted a proposal to create the plan and won the contract. Larry was impressed with how GPI Senior Energy Planner Abby Finis, who leads GPI’s climate action planning and consultation, was able to scope a plan to magnify the impact that a city of 50,000 people, like St. Louis Park, can have to meet our society’s climate obligations.
This climate advocacy effort was special because young people were heavily involved. Larry says the power of youth engagement is their ability to reach people through emotional connection and drive lasting change. Supporting youth leaders through the City of St. Louis Park’s adoption of the climate action plan inspired Larry to run for elected office so he could ensure that the plan would be fully implemented. He was inaugurated as an at large St. Louis Park council member earlier this year.
An Organization Focused on Bold Ideas with Impact
At the time of its adoption in 2018, St. Louis Park had committed to one of the most ambitious climate action plans in the country, with goals to achieve carbon neutrality by 2040 and 100 percent renewable electricity by 2030. Now that Larry is working to execute the plan as an elected official, he increasingly appreciates the role that GPI plays in achieving our society’s climate goals. While drafting the plan, GPI not only focused on the energy and climate goals but also on how those could be translated into a road map for implementation. This combination of providing the “vision of where we need to go while providing the grounding in how things get done” is what defines the core competencies and capabilities of GPI. It’s this intimate knowledge of how policy is advanced to make a material change that directly helps elected officials move their communities forward.
But GPI’s expertise is “not only brought to bear on helping communities reach their goals through solid implementation strategy, but also to spread impactful strategies and ideas to more communities and therefore have the greatest possible climate impact.” Larry asserted that the selection of GPI enabled the plan to have greater impact and scale. “GPI’s vision is simply bigger. As a regional and national organization, GPI brings an edge to its local government engagements that other firms do not.” Larry says St. Louis Park’s climate action plan inspired other cities to create their own ambitious plans. He believes that this is due to the thought leadership that GPI’s expert planners provide to local elected officials across the country. This is evidence of GPI’s dedication to scaling and expanding the advances that it makes in partnership with communities.
We hope that you enjoyed learning about how the Great Plains Institute is a vital partner in Larry’s mission to leave our children with a livable climate and planet. We invite you to support this continued work. Now through June 30 Madison Gas and Electric will match all gifts up to $15,000 through our Together campaign.