Fresh Energy has a commitment to nurturing talent and building new clean energy leaders. In honor of our 25th anniversary, we are profiling a handful of “Fresh Energy Alums” who worked with us early in their career. This month, Fresh Energy’s senior engagement specialist Alexis Williams spoke with Ethan Fawley, now the executive director of the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition where he has become a leading advocate for pedal-powered, zero carbon transportation.
Ethan first came to Fresh Energy in 2008 when he was hired as the Transportation Connections Coordinator. He was later promoted to the Transportation and Built Environment director and left Fresh Energy in 2013 to become the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition’s first executive director.
Prior to coming to Fresh Energy, where were you in your career and what motivated you to work for the organization?
Ethan: I was freshly out of grad school, volunteering, consulting, and waiting for the right job opportunity to come along. I recognized after graduating that I didn’t want to take just any job. I really wanted to go to work in a place where I felt that I could work on my values. When the position for the Transportation Connections Coordinator opened at Fresh Energy, I felt like it was the perfect job opportunity. It provided an extraordinary opportunity for me to connect both my passion and professional expertise. I knew I could do the job well and be excited to come to Fresh Energy every day. It was a huge break for me. Fresh Energy is a very competitive place to work and I felt very lucky to get the job. It changed the direction of my career. I have a background in city planning, and I could have gone to work in government. Instead, because of my break at Fresh Energy, I get to work in advocacy.
What were some of the highlights of your time at Fresh Energy?
Ethan: One of my personal highlights was the opportunity to lead the Minnesota Complete Streets Coalition starting in 2009 and into the 2010 legislative session. Lots of folks were involved: more than fifty organizations and hundreds of people–from volunteers to professional lobbyists. The campaign was successful and Minnesota adopted a Complete Streets law in 2010 ensuring that streets are safer and more accessible for pedestrians, transit riders, bicyclists, and drivers. It was the first campaign I had the opportunity to lead. It was a chance for me to learn from many great people, and I still see the impact of this law every day. It was a big opportunity and I was thankful that Fresh Energy and the members of the Coalition felt comfortable with me in a leadership. Not every workplace gives that kind of leadership opportunity to someone who had only been at the organization for a year.
Was there anything you learned during your time at Fresh Energy that help you in your role as executive director at the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition?
Ethan: I wouldn’t be where I am professionally without the opportunities Fresh Energy gave me. I am especially thankful for the chance to serve as the lead coordinator for the Complete Streets Coalition. In my role as the Transportation and Built Environment director, I learned how to help fundraise, manage a budget, build relationships, keep an eye on efficiency, and manage other staff. All those things were extremely valuable in preparing me for my current role at the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition.
Anything else you would like to add about Fresh Energy?
Ethan: The energy policy landscape in Minnesota is shaped by Fresh Energy and our state is a better place because of it. Fresh Energy is a tremendous organization with amazing people. The consistency of work over 25 years is a real tribute to all the staff and board. It’s hard work making change. Fresh Energy has been really smart about when to push and has delivered so much. Thank you for all you do.