Local Government Summit Speakers & Panelists | wisconsinacademy.org
Your shopping cart is empty.

Local Government Summit Speakers & Panelists


Click to Learn More About...

Keynote Speaker

Introductory Speakers

Panel 1: Implementing Successful Energy Programs at the Local Level

Panel 2: Financing Sustainable Energy Programs


Keynote Speaker

Tim Kabat, Mayor of La Crosse

Tim Kabat is the 42nd Mayor of the City of La Crosse.

In 1988, Kabat graduated from the University of Wisconsin at La Crosse with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration.  In 1990, he attended graduate school at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, graduating with a Masters in Urban and Regional Planning in 1992.
Kabat’s work experience includes Executive Director of Downtown Main Street Inc., 2010 to 2013; Associate Lecturer at the University of Wisconsin at La Crosse in Microeconomics & Public Policy, 2011 to 2012; City of La Crosse Planning and Development Administrator, 2003 to 2010; Agency Relations Director for The Nature Conservancy in Madison, 2002 to 2003; Senior Planner for the City of Madison, 2000 to 2002; Sauk County Planning and Zoning Administrator, 1995 to 2000.

Introductions & On-site Staff

Mike Wiza, Mayor of Stevens Point

Mayor Wiza has lived in the Stevens Point area his whole life and has been active in the community for most of those years. He attended SPASH and University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point. Prior to becoming Mayor, Wiza worked in the IT field. 
Wiza served as a City Alderman for over 10 years and a Portage County Supervisor for over 9 years. He has also been very active in outdoor and conservation groups including the Izaak Walton League, Prime Water Anglers, and others. 
Wiza believes we need to be responsible stewards of the world around us and has focused on sustainable initiatives both before and since being elected Mayor in April of 2015.

Jerry Deschane, Executive Director of the League of Wisconsin Municipalities and the Urban Alliance

Jerry Deschane, CAE, IOM, is the Executive Director of the League of Wisconsin Municipalities and the Urban Alliance. He also serves as the Secretary of the League of Wisconsin Municipalities Mutual Insurance board of directors, is a director of the Mutual Property Insurance Company and is an ex officio member of the board of the Local Government Institute.
Working with the League board and eight-person staff, Jerry is responsible for engaging the League’s membership in the state legislative process and for motivating state policymakers to support vibrant Wisconsin communities. He is the fifth League Executive Director in 117 years.
Deschane spent 20 years with the Wisconsin Builders Association and also has experience in state government and the news media. 

Jane Elder, Executive Director for Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts & Letters

Jane Elder is the executive director for the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts & Letters, an organization that explores, explains and sustains Wisconsin thought and culture.
Prior to joining the Academy staff, Elder served as president of a consulting group that focused on strategic communications for positive environmental change and also on building stronger nonprofits. In that role she worked as a senior writer and researcher for the Presidential Climate Action Plan - a plan developed by the University of Colorado-Denver to identify presidential actions and strategies for federal agencies to address climate change. She served as the founding director of the Biodiversity Project, which was designed to help Americans grasp the value of the diversity of nature and to take action to protect it. She also worked for the Sierra Club in many capacities in her early career and established the Sierra Club’s Great Lakes program.
Elder holds a BA in Communications from Michigan State University, and a MS in Land Resources from the University of Wisconsin’s Institute for Environmental Studies.


Meredith Keller, Initiatives Director for the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts & Letters

 Meredith Keller is the Initiatives director at the Wisconsin Academy. She joined the Academy in September 2014 with an array of experience in nonprofits, environmental policy, and community organizing.  She recently led the Minnesota Waters Program at Conservation Minnesota, which included working with citizens’ groups and state agencies to control the spread of aquatic invasive species.

Keller deferred college after high school, choosing instead to serve in AmeriCorps. She dedicated two years to its Reading Corps Program in Minnesota before working on a Senatorial race in 2008. While a student in Environmental Studies, History, and Political Science at UW-Madison, Keller worked as a research assistant for two professors, and finally as the Student Director at the UW-Madison Office of Sustainability. Her honors thesis brought her to Freiburg, Germany, and then back to Madison, where she quantified and researched the emissions and climate change policies of the two Sister Cities.


Panel 1: Implementing Successful Energy Programs at the Local Level

Moderator: Sherrie Gruder, Design Specialist & Energy Program Manager for UW Extension

Sherrie Gruder is a Sustainable Design Specialist for the University of Wisconsin-Extension. Gruder provides statewide education and technical assistance on sustainable community development, sustainable energy strategies, and green building to Wisconsin communities, state and local governments, and businesses. 

Gruder coordinates the state Energy on Wisconsin program for UW-Extension with the State Energy Office. She served on the renewable energy board of the Wisconsin Focus on Energy Program for eight years and on the Wisconsin Office of Energy Independence committee developing and implementing the Energy Independent Communities grant program. Gruder is a LEED™ Accredited Professional by the US Green Building Council (USGBC), served two terms on its Government Core Committee, and is on the board of USGBC in Wisconsin (formerly WI Green Building Alliance). She is a member of the UW-Extension Sustainability Team and trained in Sweden on The Natural Step. 
Sherrie holds a bachelors degree from the University of Pennsylvania and M.S. from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

Mayor Larry MacDonald, City of Bayfield

Larry J. MacDonald is in his 20th year serving as mayor of the City of Bayfield, WI (population 487), located on the shores of Lake Superior adjacent to the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. The City of Bayfield is proud to be an Eco-Municipality, Green Tier Legacy Community, Water Star Community, Tree City, and Bird City, in addition to having Green Marina Certification and being a recipient of the Peter Wege Small Cities Sustainability Best Practices Award.

MacDonald was a founding member of the regional Alliance for Sustainability in 1994, and was one of ten US mayors invited by the U.S. Ambassador in Sweden to attend the first European Green Capitol Conference in 2010 in Stockholm. He was one of four U.S. mayors to make a presentation. MacDonald also served on the Chicago-based Alliance for the Great Lakes board from 2009 to 2015, acts as the Chair of the Wisconsin Coastal Management Council, serves on the board of the Wisconsin Local Government Institute, and is active in the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Cities Initiative.
He and his wife Julie have owned and operated Cooper Hill House B&B since 1989. Although they have traveled extensively and have sailed over 10,000 miles on the Great Lakes, the allure of Bayfield and Lake Superior continues to bring them back to “the Greatest of all the Great Lakes, Lake Superior.”

Joe McDonald, CEO & General Manager of Vernon Electric Cooperative

Joe McDonald is the CEO and General Manager of Vernon Electric Cooperative (VEC), a 10,000-member electric cooperative in Westby. Last year, VEC constructed the first community solar garden in Wisconsin.  

Prior to joining VEC, McDonald was the Manager, Executive and Staff Education for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association in Madison. He was responsible for supervisory and safety training programs. He developed the Cooperative Financial Professional Certificate Program and taught numerous co-op financial management classes. He was also the CFO at Adams-Columbia Electric Cooperative for 17 years. 
McDonald serves on the boards of the Wisconsin Rural Housing Foundation, Bethel Home & Services, Wisconsin Federated Youth Foundation, and the Bethel Butikk Food Pantry. He has an Executive MBA from the UW-Madison and a degree in Finance from UW-Platteville. 

Ned Noel, Associate Planner for the City of Eau Claire

Ned Noel, Associate Planner, City of Eau Claire, has practiced urban planning for over 13 years within the Twin Cities and Eau Claire markets.  In his role he also helps the City coordinate efforts on sustainability and healthy community design.

Doug Stingle, Development Director of the Midwest Renewable Energy Association (MREA)

Doug Stingle currently serves as Development Director for The Midwest Renewable Energy Association (MREA) where he works to grow renewable energy markets and grow funding sources for the organization.
Stingle started at MREA in 2007 as the Membership and Outreach Coordinator and has served as the Program Director before his current role. At MREA he has worked in various capacities on many programs including: The Energy Fair, the SOLAR THERMAL Conference, the Wisconsin Solar Tour, Solar Professional Workshops, and fundraising events. Additionally he has presented on solar energy to many conferences and community groups including: The National Restaurant Association, Solar Power International, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Solar Power Wisconsin Conference, and many Rotary clubs and community organizations. 
Stingle is a graduate of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and has extensive experience as a project manager in both the telecommunications and educational software industries prior to joining MREA. He lives in a solar powered 105-year-old bungalow with his wife and two sons and enjoys fishing, canoeing, gardening, and photography.  

Panel 2: Financing Sustainable Energy Programs

Moderator: Mary Schlaefer, President & CEO of WECC

Mary Woolsey Schlaefer is President and CEO of WECC—a Wisconsin-based nonprofit that designs and implements energy efficiency, renewable energy, and related finance programs for municipalities and utilities across the United States. In her tenure, WECC has delivered more than five billion kilowatt-hours of electric savings and more than 200 million therms of gas savings for WECC’s clients and customers—the equivalent of eliminating 11 billion pounds of CO2 emissions.   
Schlaefer has played a key role in developing integrated, holistic approaches to advancing energy efficiency and conservation. She has grown WECC’s Energy Finance Solutions (EFS) division while also driving energy savings in underserved markets (such as low-income neighborhoods and manufactured homes). She has led the development of approaches that strengthen communities by increasing community engagement, leveraging private investments, and promoting workforce development.
Prior to joining WECC, Schlaefer held state government leadership positions at the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the Wisconsin Department of Justice, and the National Association of Attorneys General.  She has served on numerous national, state, and local boards and councils, currently as an active member of the Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance (MEEA) Board of Directors, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Green Tier Advisors, and Dane County Parks Commission.
Schlaefer has a Juris Doctor (cum laude) from the University of Minnesota Law School and a Bachelor of Arts (honors) from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Chad Bulman, Director  of Energy Portfolios for Focus on Energy

Chad Bulman is the Energy Portfolios Director for Focus on Energy, where he oversees both business and residential programs on behalf of Wisconsin utility customers.
His previous experience has involved project management of energy efficiency programs for Chicagoland electric and natural gas utilities, as well as regional coordination of energy efficiency initiatives across a 13-state footprint.



Megan Levy, Director of Local Energy Programs for the WI State Energy Office

A graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Megan Levy has spent a decade working with building energy efficiency both in the low-income weatherization program and with the Wisconsin State Energy Office (WI SEO).
As Director of Local Energy Programs for the WI SEO, Levy also oversees the Energy Independent Communities program in Wisconsin, which counts more than 147 communities as members. Levy is also the manager of WI SEO’s new Municipal Energy Efficiency Technical Assistance Program (MEETAP) in which it aims to build on previous successes in the State-owned building energy conservation program to provide the necessary expertise to municipalities and schools across the state and drive demand for energy efficiency projects.
A chanteuse for the last 20 years, Levy performs jazz, jump blues, and swing all over Wisconsin under the moniker Madison Red.

Lynn Parins, Attorney at von Briesen & Roper

Lynn Parins is a member of the Banking, Bankruptcy, Business Restructuring and Real Estate Practice Group where his practice focuses on the intersection of finance, real estate, and renewable energy development. Parins has been involved in every major piece of the firm’s renewable energy and energy efficiency practice, ranging from the securitization of property assessed clean energy (“PACE”) loans to qualified energy conservation bonds (“QECBs”) to project finance for commercial solar. He is also watching closely the evolution and implementation of the newly finalized Clean Power Plan. Based on his experience and prior training, Parins is well positioned to advise government, lending, and building owner clients interested in renewable energy and energy efficiency finance.

During law school, Parins acted as the Student Director for the Energy and Environmental Sustainability Clinic where he oversaw the Clinic’s client relationship with the City of Minneapolis Sustainability Office. He was also a member of the Minnesota Journal of International Law. Prior to law school, Parins handled the expansion initiative of the international nonprofit AIESEC to the Sultanate of Oman where he managed relationships with government and business leaders. Upon his return, he worked in trade association management in Madison, Wisconsin.
Parins is a member of the Wisconsin Green Building Alliance, the Milwaukee Bar Association, and the State Bar of Wisconsin.

Jason Stringer, Product Manager at WECC

Jason Stringer is a project finance expert with extensive financing experience in the resource efficiency and commercial real estate development industries. At WECC Energy Finance Solutions, he is responsible for monitoring energy programs and market trends—and developing strategies to increase innovation across their portfolio of energy finance products.  He leads initiatives to stimulate broader availability of finance options for building owners, contractors, lenders and developers, such as unsecured, direct consumer loans, on-bill recovery, commercial and residential Property Assessed Clean Energy, loan-loss reserves and other credit enhancement products.  Stringer also prepares utility energy efficiency program plans for regulatory filings for WECC’s clients and is responsible for portfolio strategy, program design, and cost effective testing.
Stringer graduated from Michigan State University with a bachelor of science in Urban and Regional Planning. He holds a master's of science in Real Estate and Urban Land Economics from the University of Wisconsin - Madison, where he also completed the Applied Real Estate Securities Analysis Program. He has completed coursework in sustainable development from the University of Dortmund, Germany and is a LEED Green Associate.

Contact Us

Follow Us

Wisconsin Academy Offices 
1922 University Avenue
Madison, Wisconsin 53726
Phone: 608.733.6633


James Watrous Gallery 
3rd Floor, Overture Center for the Arts
201 State Street
Madison, WI 53703
Phone: 608.733.6633 x25