Evan Brown has served on the Red Wing City Council for over five years and is currently in his second term. Brown strives to balance all of Red Wing’s needs with the available resources to work towards a more secure, equitable and clean future.
His wife, Laura McDonough, recently passed away in March and Brown has been dealing with his loss while continuing to better the community.
We spoke with him about his work on the council, what he does in his free time, an issue he advocates for and more.
What inspired you to work on the council?
I really started to get involved in city issues as part of the Red Wing Riverfront Redevelopment plan in 2005. I and many other community members worked to protect the Baypoint Park riverfront area, and to make sure the riverfront was accessible and available for all kinds of uses. This eventually led to the area being put into a land trust based on a donation of a parcel of land. As part of that redevelopment plan I became particularly interested in the intersection with Old West Main and the riverfront, from seeing many models in other areas I have lived and stayed, such as the coast of Maine and the San Francisco Bay area. These waterfront areas combine working ports and water commerce with destination amenities. I very much see this model in Red Wing and actively pursue that.
Additionally, I served 8 years on the Charter Commission and 4 years on the Sustainability Commission. Serving on the Sustainability commission was inspired by my desire to consider and address the climate crisis facing us, to consider opportunities for making our energy use locally cleaner and less carbon intensive. That led to my work to help educate the city on solar gardens and how the city could benefit from a solar garden subscription, culminating in an agreement that now covers nearly 95% of the city's electrical consumption and will bring savings to the city of over $6 million over the subscription term. I also was an advocate for a PACE (property assessed clean energy) program here in Red Wing that allows commercial properties to access funding for clean energy and energy efficiency improvements that is paid back from the savings those improvements make.
What do you hope to accomplish for the Red Wing community?
I hope to move us to a more sustainable future, meaning socially, economically and environmentally. I look at this as interconnecting parts to make a whole. I think one of the obvious growth areas in our economy, especially looking forward to and coming out of COVID, is in growing Red Wing as a destination for visitors. Our investment in Levee Park for more riverboat traffic, our work to encourage destination growth along Old West Main street, our investments in a trail connecting our entire riverfront, our upgrade to He Mni Can/Barn Bluff and the entrance that describes the Dakota history, these are all efforts to make Red Wing attractive for visitors to come, enjoy and shop in our community. To tell the particular Red Wing story that only we have. I continue to want to expand opportunities for local businesses to serve the visitors to this community.
We also need to invest in housing, and continue to work to find housing that is affordable for our workforce. We need to continue to help with reducing greenhouse gas emissions in our community, by encouraging clean energy, energy efficiency and new transportation options. I have been working on these issues and will continue to work on them.
What is one particular topic/issue that you advocate for?
It is hard to pick a single issue. My sustainability framework puts me in the mindset to work on issues in tandem to address sustainability. As the sustainability commission mission statement says, a sustainability community balances environment, economy, and social good, and recognizes a healthy sustainable environment is the basis for economic and community development. I try to work in this way.
Right now my focus is on equity and electric vehicles. Equity because I believe that we as a local government and as community can always try to do better and learn how we can better serve all our residents so that they feel welcomed and included. Electric vehicles because transportation is now the number source of greenhouse gas emissions in the country. Electric vehicles are lifetime cleaner no matter where they are plugged in, and they are also lifetime cheaper to operate. If we can include more of these options in the city fleet it is both environmentally and fiscally smart.
What is one thing you like most about your job?
The ability to work with residents to make positive change for our community. Residents in Red Wing are engaged and communicate on issues. They have many ideas to make Red Wing better. I truly enjoy listening and working with them to help move Red Wing forward.
What do you find difficult about your job?
I think the hardest is trying to explain that one person's point of view, or even a group's, is not indicative of consensus necessarily. A lot goes into the decisions we reach, and we hear from all kinds of people with all kinds of positions. We mix that with the resources we have, the input from professionals to arrive at decisions that build for the long term with the “best for the most” in mind. A lot of strategic planning is involved in issues brought before us, and we consider our strategic plan in understanding and supporting decisions we make.
What do you do outside of your job?
I work as a senior 3D artist for a video game development company. Right now I am trying to consider life as my wife, Laura McDonough, recently passed away. She gave so much to this community as an advocate for women who experienced sexual violence. She was a model for me of community service, teaching and touching lives one person at a time. I miss her so much and I know many in the community who do as well. She asked that I continue to do this work so I do.