We asked Steve Woods, Freshwater’s new executive director, to talk a little about his background, his priorities and the connections to water in his life.
Q: Our members and supporters are interested in you and your relationship to water. What’s your story? I grew up on the north side of McCarrons Lake and now live on the west side of Turtle Lake, both in Ramsey County. Toss in a degree from the U of M, then Hamline, and here I am.
Q: Do you have a favorite trip that you’ve taken? My wife and I biked across Tuscany. I had gotten drilled by a pickup truck while on my bike just a month prior so was doubly glad to be there, literally. Landscapes, food, wine, and people were all spectacular.
Q: How about a water trip? A two-week sailing trip from Chicago to Duluth—in spite of it being the last week of May. Coming across Whitefish Bay in a storm was an eye-opener.
Q: Craziest thing you’ve done on the water? I used to crew on a racing sailboat on Minnetonka and the boat would bog down from Eurasian water milfoil on the keel. I jumped off the bow, scraped an armful of vegetation off, and surfaced in time to grab the stern rail and pull myself back aboard.
Q: What do you see as the biggest challenge to our water resources? Apathy.
Q: Explain what you mean. Our world, and our state, have all the water we are ever going to get. We are overusing it and running short in places. In other places and situations, we are polluting our water in ways that may take centuries to remedy. Many people don’t know about that, don’t think about it and certainly are not working to change things.
Q: How can the Society help face that challenge? Help the young experience the natural resources all around them so they can know what is at stake. Help time-challenged people know when and where their ability to help is going to provide the best return on their time and money. Let’s face it, there is just too much going on at any given time for citizens to keep track. The Society can provide an easily consumed digest of who is doing what, where, and when.
Q: When you were invited to apply for the Freshwater job, what intrigued you about the opportunity? In the 1980s the Society was putting out amazing information that permanently opened to my mind to a wide range of management perspectives. My 12 years of private sector work and 14 years of the public sector work benefitted greatly from that early exposure. I guess I wanted to give something back to the Society.
Q: Any long-term stretch goal you’d like to see the Society achieve? That’s tough to answer this soon; I’m still learning the board’s aspirations and strategic initiatives. I do think it would be interesting to have a water-related journal of essays, literature, and research findings tailored for the Upper Midwest.
Q: When were you most scared on the water? Not counting Whitefish Bay, I’d have to say the time my wife talked me into my first triathlon. Staring at a half-mile swim when you haven’t swum longer than a quarter-mile is… daunting.
Q: What is your Meyers-Briggs type? ESTJ. Definitely. (The initials stand for Extrovert, Sensing, Thinking, Judgmental.)
Q: What are reading currently? The First 90 Days, and, Autobiography of Mark Twain. I usually have a couple books under way at the same time.
Q: Any authors you go back to repeatedly? Patrick O’Brian, David Quammen, John Sandford.
Q. Any final thoughts? I am privileged to have the opportunity to continue and expand on the fine work in education, advocacy and civic engagement that the Freshwater Board, Gene Merriam and Joan Nephew have done in recent years.