Fresh Energy names Dr. Brenda Cassellius as new Executive Director

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Fresh Energy is pleased to share that the search for our next executive director has culminated in an exciting and unanimously approved hire by Fresh Energy’s Board of Directors.

Since Michael Noble, Fresh Energy’s founding executive director, announced his plans for rewirement last fall, an extensive planning and search process has been underway led by the executive search firm Cohen Taylor and Fresh Energy’s Board Chair Jacquie Johnson, alongside a dedicated search committee made up of Fresh Energy staff and board members.

Dr. Brenda Cassellius

Fresh Energy is pleased to announce that Dr. Brenda Cassellius will be joining the organization as Executive Director on May 8, 2023.

“This hire comes as we collectively celebrate Earth Day and a year of unprecedented and historic progress on clean energy and climate both at the federal level and at the Minnesota Legislature,” said Jacquie Johnson, Fresh Energy board chair. “The Search Committee and the Board of Directors were deeply impressed by Dr. Cassellius’ powerful record of leadership and accomplishments, by her capacity for storytelling as a vehicle for advancing mission, and by her lifelong commitment to equity, diversity, inclusion, and justice.”

Dr. Cassellius brings three decades of experience in the public education sector to Fresh Energy. Brenda began her professional career first as a teacher and administrator in Saint Paul Public Schools, and later as the first African American woman in Minnesota history to serve as Commissioner of Education—a role she was appointed to and held for eight years during the administration of former Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton.

In her time as commissioner, Brenda’s commitment to justice and conservation shone in her work. Under her leadership, Minnesota participated in the U.S. Department of Education’s Green Ribbon Schools program focused on school sustainability and the Minnesota Department of Education was one of the first state agencies to launch a vehicle fleet electrification process.

Dr. Cassellius later went on to hold the role of Superintendent of Boston Public Schools, where she led the district as it completed its five-year strategic plan and navigated the unprecedented challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. She was also instrumental in the Boston Public Schools’ Green New Deal plan, which reimagines schools as full-service community hubs and engines of climate resilience and includes plans for energy efficient and environmentally friendly buildings and practices.

“I have known Dr. Cassellius personally and professionally for many years, and I have seen her incredible work ethic and commitment firsthand,” said U.S. Senator Tina Smith. “Fresh Energy has a 30-year track record of effective leadership working to combat the climate crisis and accelerate the clean energy transition, and I have no doubt Brenda will be great at the helm.”

Dr. Cassellius grew up poor in Minneapolis public housing and knew early on that education is critical to our future. “I’m looking forward to taking my passion for public education and our youth and channeling it to lead an organization that has such a dramatic impact on our state’s future as well as national influence on energy and climate policy,” said Cassellius.

For 30 years, Fresh Energy has been speeding Minnesota’s transition to a clean energy economy to ensure that our region enjoys good health, a vibrant economy, and thriving, equitable communities today and for generations to come. Dr. Cassellius will lead Fresh Energy to continue its mission to shape and drive bold policy solutions to create equitable carbon-neutral economies.

“Brenda has an unmitigated passion for public education and young people. She knows firsthand that our youth see climate change as the existential crisis of our time,” said Janiece Watts, director of culture and partnerships at Fresh Energy. “In addition to Brenda’s strong leadership and education background, she has also served on various nonprofit boards throughout her career, accentuating her profound commitment to public education, youth, and Minnesota’s future. Brenda’s experience is exactly what we need as we, as Minnesotans, work side-by-side to build a clean energy future.”

Fresh Energy firmly centers principles of anti-racism, justice, and equity in its work toward a just, prosperous, and resilient future powered by a shared commitment to a carbon-neutral economy. As executive director, Dr. Cassellius will champion this commitment.

Dr. Cassellius joins the Fresh Energy team two weeks before the departure of current executive director Michael Noble. Read Dr. Cassellius’ full bio here.

“I am thrilled about the hiring of Dr. Cassellius as the next executive director of Fresh Energy,” said Michael Noble, outgoing executive director of Fresh Energy. “Her extensive experience with public policy and in leading high-functioning teams will take Fresh Energy to the next level. As the organization continues to grow, Brenda is exactly the person who should lead.”