Driving sustainable solutions for all Minnesotans

Long-time supporter Jason Willett first found out about Fresh Energy through his work in Environmental Services at the Metropolitan Council. As he engaged with stakeholders from government, utility, business, non-profits and the public, Jason says Fresh Energy stood out as expert policy architects. “I saw one nonprofit—Fresh Energy—being especially successful at improving policy, and it is the reason why I give to Fresh Energy monthly. Fresh Energy is practical, collaborative, and, most of all, effective, working with all parties, just as I did, to come up with solutions that make sense to and for all Minnesotans.”

A Fresh Energy donor since 2003, Jason is part of Fresh Energy’s cohort of monthly donors called “Fresh Sustainers” for their consistent, committed support of the organization. For Jason, Fresh Energy’s work is both a personal passion, and work that he dedicated his career to. “I was always an environmentalist,” he says. 

Jason and his wife Sara. Photo/Jason Willett, Sara Watson.

In addition to supporting Fresh Energy, Jason has had an enormous impact in Minnesota, demonstrating how local government can lead on clean energy initiatives that save money and reduce our state’s carbon emissions. As the Council’s Environmental Services Finance Director and eventually the entire Metropolitan Council’s first Sustainability Director, Jason focused on optimizing energy conservation, saving millions of dollars annually for the Council and its ratepayers and catalyzing more clean energy development in Minnesota. Jason was an early proponent of solar on wastewater treatment plant sites, catalyzing multiple major projects including a 10-acre 2015 solar array on marginal land next to the Blue Lake Wastewater Treatment Plant built in Shakopee. “The Minnesota solar industry was very young in 2015, but Jason was a leader who saw its potential,” says Fresh Energy Clean Electricity Lead Allen Gleckner.

The arc of Jason Willett’s career runs the gamut, from psychology, math, and business degrees, to moving to Minnesota in 1978, to work with IBM, to pivoting from computers into a role with financial firm Springsted, much of Jason’s career revolved around numbers and computers. Until his role with the finance firm, though, there wasn’t necessarily much crossover between his personal passion for climate and environment and his career.

At Springsted, Jason began working on solid waste facility funding and rate setting, eventually leading him to be appointed to a statewide solid waste advisory committee by former Governor of Minnesota Rudy Perpich. That, Jason says, led to a lot of independent consulting in solid waste, composting technologies, recycling and more that all wound up to an eventual environmental finance role at the Metropolitan Council.

“I not only care about this work professionally—I care about it personally,” he says.

Although now in his retirement, Jason is busy. He serves on the board of a lake association leading a healthy lake initiative (to mitigate runoff into the lake), occasionally works as a consultant, and has 11 grandchildren with two more on the way. He’s written two children’s books and also creates science-themed mini videos geared toward engaging four-year-olds. “Now I get to do what I want and love, and what’s fun,” he says with a smile. Jason is also about to be the new owner of an electric boat (being customized right here in Minnesota), to be powered by his solar arrays and he’s looking forward to being able to tow it to the lake using one of his electric vehicles. He’s also working toward elimination of fossil gas at his Stillwater home and speaks highly of his induction stove!

Jason supports Fresh Energy because he shares our vision for a clean energy future, and he knows that continuing to make it a reality requires collaboration over the long term. Thank you, Jason, for being one of our critical, sustaining, monthly donors. You can join Jason as a Fresh Sustainer by setting up a monthly donation to Fresh Energy today. For more information, please contact Meggie LaValley at lavalley@fresh-energy.org.