I am Co-Executive Director of Milwaukee Water Commons. We’re an Organization that is about four years old and we are committed to really growing a diverse set of voices around water stewardship and water care in Milwaukee.
For me, the time I went up to Lake Superior to go sea-kayaking for the very first time. I always heard that you needed to have a lot of respect for Lake Superior, but I never really understood the true meaning of that until I jumped into the water and understood just how cold it is. And then, when you go kayaking at the Apostle Islands, there is also a sign that talks about the tragic deaths of kayakers that have gone and were ill prepared – they didn't have the right equipment. It just really dawned on me that we need to respect these lakes – they’re powerful. Other places have mountains, but we have our lakes.
My Favourite Great Lake, of course, is Lake Michigan. I’m very fond of Lake Superior just because it’s so wild and deep, and cold! But I have to say Lake Michigan is my favourite, because I live a few blocks away from Lake Michigan. I get up and run three days a week and get to see it. And it’s really my home; it’s where we do our work here. We’re really trying to connect the people of Milwaukee back to Lake Michigan. I’m fond of it.
I was a public school teacher for 20 years. I taught French, but I had also gotten a degree in college in Plant Pathology. I kind of straddled both the humanities and the sciences. And frankly, I just got a little bored of teaching French and began to feel a bit of an itch that I really needed to get back and do some work around the environment. Ever since the very first Earth Day in Wisconsin – of course, (Wisconsin Senator and Founder of Earth Day) Gaylord Nelson is a big deal – I always felt a calling to do something about the environment.
I began talking to people around Milwaukee mid-career trying to figure out how I could go from being an educator to an environmental advocate. And it was really wonderful because I wasn’t so sure I had the skillset to do it, but so many people told me again and again that it really is about education and the things that you’ve learned as a public school teach will come in very handy.
Milwaukee Water Commons was really formed because Milwaukee is beginning to position itself as a global water city, or third coast, or a water centric city – there’s all kind of names people are throwing around. Back in 2012, we’re really hearing that, seeing the excitement of this economic development vision, but really wondering what did that mean for the community and for the water.
With that, we began talking to people all over Milwaukee and asking them: if we were to be a global water city, a model water city, what would that look like to you? We wanted to find out a broader vision that included a lot more people. Our mission and vision were born out of that: it’s a cross-city network of people based on the Commons framework that share in both the responsibility and the benefits of our waters.
My Watermark is Lake Michigan.