Central Board of Directors
1212 M Street NE
Brainerd, MN 56401
Carol has over 30 years of experience in community tourism development, festival and event management and customer service training. Her position as a regional manager for Explore Minnesota Tourism for 22 years provided her opportunities to facilitate community tourism planning sessions, community tourism assessments and provide information on marketing opportunities available through Explore Minnesota Tourism. She also assisted Minnesota Heartland Tourism with regional marketing efforts and tourism educational opportunities. She has coordinated with other Minnesota State agencies on tourism-related projects including bicycle tourism, invasive species and fishing-related issues. In addition, Carol served as the state event coordinator for the Minnesota Governor's Fishing Opener for over 20 years. She recently retired from her position and now spends time as a volunteer at Essentia Health St. Joseph's as a patient advocate and as a front desk volunteer at The Center. She and her husband Rick have been married for 47 years and live in Brainerd, Minnesota. They have one daughter and son-in-law and 2 granddaughters that she enjoys sharing her love of the outdoors, which includes fishing, bicycling, and scenic traveling.
30795 Rasmussen Road
Pequot Lakes, MN 56472
Melissa Birch is the Central Region Coordinator for Clean Energy Resource Teams. Melissa grew up in north-central Minnesota and has a B.A. in French from Gustavus Adolphus College, an M.A. in International Relations and Environmental Policy from Boston University, and a Ph.D. in International Relations from the Fletcher School at Tufts University, where she focused on environmental policy and economic development. She has worked and volunteered in research, non-profit organizations, natural resource management, and education in locations ranging from Mexico to Massachusetts to Minnesota. She is passionate about finding ways that clean energy can help meet communities' needs.
Department of Employment and Economic Development; MN National Guard
8053 Gladstone Lake Road
Brainerd, MN 56401
Chet is a Regional Labor Market Analyst for the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) and currently lives in Nisswa, Minnesota. In his role, Chet supports local workforce and economic development councils as the state's primary regional resource for labor market information, including demographic, employment and industry analysis for program planning and implementation. His past experience includes work in community relations at the University of Minnesota and as a political / military affairs assistant at the U.S. Department of State.
Outside of DEED, Chet is currently leading a regional research project entitled "Greater Minnesota Rising," which is investigating the potential of emerging leader networks to act as resources in regional workforce development. Greater Minnesota Rising is supported and funded by the Little Falls and West Central Initiative Foundations.
Chet also serves his community as a Civil Affairs NCO in the Minnesota National Guard. He completed a Master of Public Policy degree from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota in May 2013, with a focus on public leadership and non-profit management.
Hunt Utilities Group
2331 Dancing Wind Rd SW
Pine River, MN 56474
Jim has worked as Food and Water Security Program Coordinator for Happy Dancing Turtle since February of 2011. This role includes working with the garden staff designing and managing the food production and grounds on the HDT Campus and furthering local food education and awareness.
Jim has an A.A.S. degree in Natural Resource Management from Central Lakes College and has completed other course work including a Certificate Course in Ecosystem Silviculture from the University of Minnesota and a Certificate in Agroforestry from the University of Missouri. Jim served as a technician for the Crow Wing Soil and Water Conservation District for over ten years. Soil health, ecological-based agriculture, and permaculture design are among his passions. He is currently board chair of the Sustainable Farming Association of Minnesota and an active member of the Northwoods Forestry Cooperative, Pine River Watershed Alliance and Crow Wing River Basin Forage Council.
Jim and his wife Audra own and operate Island Lake Farm, a 107 acre diversified farm and forestry operation near Deerwood, where they raise livestock, vegetables, fruit, and mushrooms. They also operate a small sugar bush, harvest and process wild rice, and manage a small woodlot. They have raised nine children on the farm and have eight grandchildren. Growing up, his parents owned a bakery and he spent close to two decades in the food service industry. He enjoys cooking and baking with good ingredients and sharing it with family and friends.
Regional Office Brainerd
322 Laurel Street, Suite 21
Brainerd, MN 56401
Susanne is a native of Thief River Falls, Minnesota, and has been at the University of Minnesota Extension since 2008. Hired as a Community Coordinator with the UMN Extension Center for Community Vitality Horizon's program, she worked with small communities in central Minnesota as their connection to the 18-month leadership and poverty-reduction program. The Horizons Program was a partnership between Extension in eight Midwest and Northwest Pacific States and the Northwest Area Foundation of St Paul, Minnesota. She has served in various positions for Extension, currently as a regional director in the Northeast Region based at the Brainerd Regional Office. She interfaces regularly with county and regional Extension staff, county officials, County Extension Committee members, as well as the general public. Susanne worked in private business as well as with the Alumni & Foundation office at Chadron State College in northwestern Nebraska. She holds a Master's Degree in Public Affairs and Leadership from the University of Minnesota Humphrey School of Public Affairs. Susanne is active in her community, especially with 4-H and her faith community. She enjoys the outdoors, especially biking and canoeing.
Chair T1; 2019
130 Learning & Environment Sciences
1954 Buford Avenue
St. Paul, MN 55108
Alison Holland is an Academic Technologist for Extension Technology where she helps teams across University of Minnesota Extension enhance their education efforts with technology through consulting, production work, and supporting professional development. Before coming to Extension, Alison gained a breadth of experience in education, primarily in the East Central Minnesota region, including community health education, K-12 curriculum development, dance education, and healthcare career promotion. She has worked for rural county government, non-profit organizations, rural elementary and secondary schools, and a small public technical college. A doctorate in education student at Hamline University, Alison is looking forward to beginning a Minnesota Education Policy Fellowship in the fall of 2016. She lives in her hometown of Mora, Minnesota, with her husband, two daughters, and Springer Spaniel, where she serves on the local Park Board (chair 2013-2016). Regularly commuting to the St. Paul campus of UMN for work, Alison is excited for the opportunity to stay more connected to her home community by serving on the Central RSDP board.
405 1st Street SE
Little Falls, MN 56345
Michelle is a graduate of St. Cloud State University with a B.A. in local and urban affairs and M.S. in tourism planning and development. Michelle grew up in rural Minnesota supporting her family's main street businesses, and has professionally worked for non-profits, government entities and educational institutions. Specializing in engagement and leadership development, Michelle supports the Initiative Foundation's community programs; helping local leaders identify their unique assets, most pressing challenges and strategies to ensure a vibrant community for years to come.
In addition to being a board member for CRSDP and Great River Arts (GRA), Kiley is an adjunct teacher at St. Cloud State University. Michelle has also served on numerous award and grant review committees including: Explore Minnesota Tourism (EMT) new event grants; Initiative Foundation's innovation grant team; as well as the Minnesota Association of Community and Leadership Education Professionals (MACLEP) and the American Planning Association (APA) awards committees.
Henry (Hank) Ludtke
223 W Juniper Avenue
Frazee, MN 56544
Henry (Hank) Ludtke was born in Washington State in 1949. He grew up Frazee, Minnesota, where he is currently serving his 9th year as mayor and 13th year on the city council. Hank spent most of my life in the transportation industry until 1996, when he was injured. Since then, he has devoted his time to local government, park and trail development, and has represented Minnesota Cities on the Red River Basin Commission dealing with international water issues with Canada. Hank works with troubled youth and senior citizens, and believes the rest of us can take care of ourselves.
UMN Tourism Center
1420 Eckles Ave #448
St Paul, MN 55108
Cynthia Messer is a tourism specialist and Extension Professor with the University of Minnesota Tourism Center. She has more than thirty-five years of tourism experience as both a practitioner and educator. Her educational and research interests focus on sustainable community tourism development and quality customer service. Her recent work includes the Tourism Assessment Program, an applied research and educational program that engages communities in identifying and maximizing tourism opportunities. She holds a MA degree in Education with a focus on Travel and Tourism Development from George Washington University and a BA from University of California Los Angeles.
Co-Chair T2; 2018
Pine River Watershed Alliance
6814 Old Whiskey Road
Pequot Lakes, MN 56472
My wife Sandy and I have been visiting the Whitefish area for over 30 years. We bought a cabin 24 years ago and finally built our home here 15 years ago after I retired.
I retired from Medtronic after 25 years. I started at Medtronic as an electrical engineer and moved to management. I held management positions in Operations, Research and Development, Materials and Finance. I became a Vice President and General Manager for a number of business units. In my last position at Medtronic I was responsible for establishing Medtronic China through developing a pacemaker for Asia, establishing manufacturing in China, and negotiating a business license with the Chinese government.
While working, I was on the Board and eventually Chair of the Mercy/ Unity Hospitals in Minneapolis. Since retiring my focus became the Whitefish area and the local environment. I have been on the Board of the Whitefish Property Owners Association (WAPOA) and presently the Chair of the Pine River Watershed Alliance (PRWA). I am also currently a member of the Crow Wing Forage Basin Advisory Council and a Board member of the Central Regional Sustainable Development Partnership. I have also joined the Whitefish Golf Club Board.
15756 Highway 371
Cass Lake, MN 56633
Shirley is a UMN Extension Educator specializing in water resource management and policy, based out of the Leech Lake Division of Resource Management. She is a long-time community leader, having directed the Leech Lake Environmental Department and volunteering for several organizations in the region and state, including the White Earth Land Recovery Project, Leech Lake Area Boys & Girls Club, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Environmental Justice Advisory Board, and the Headwaters Humane Society. Shirley is passionate about building strong communities, reducing dependence on conventional energy, and sustaining what is left of our natural resources, and hopes to work towards revitalizing traditional Ojibwe food knowledge and food systems through partnership with local producers and artists.