Each year a leader in the environmental community is selected by the Minnesota DFL to receive the Willard Munger Award. This auspicious award was presented to our very own Justin Fay at the 2016 Founders Day Dinner on October 21.
Justin’s career has included a variety of roles in Minnesota’s environmental community, including with the Nature Conservancy, Minnesota Environmental Partnership, Washington County Citizens for Land and Water, Minnesota Campaign for Conservation, and as Field Director for the Vote Yes campaign for the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment. Justin began work with the Sierra Club North Star Chapter in 2009 and accepted a full time position in 2011. Now as Senior Chapter Representative, Justin directs the Sierra Club’s Minnesota legislative activities — working closely with members and allied organizations from across the state — and provides support for the Club’s electoral programs. In 2014-2015 he took a leave of absence to manage the Clean Energy and Jobs Campaign, representing more than 60 partner organizations.
The award is named for Representative Willard Munger, who represented portions of Duluth and St. Louis County in the Minnesota House for over 42 years. A pioneer of environmental legislation, he soon became known as “Mr. Environment,” helping to shape every major conservation law in Minnesota during his decades in office. His accomplishments in the legislature ran the gamut from recycling, banning DDT, preserving wetlands, protecting groundwater, and establishing Minnesota’s Environmental Trust Fund.
The North Star Chapter’s Vicki Munson organized Sierra Club members during Rep. Munger’s tenure in the late 1980’s and 1990’s, and remembers his close partnership with the Chapter. “If the Sierra Club had items on our agenda that needed to move through the legislature, they weren’t going anywhere without Willard’s support. We had a great relationship with him and his staff. His people would call us all the time, and vice versa,” she says. “I think he found that the Sierra Club support was important to him.”
Munson reflects on Rep. Munger’s deep concern for the St. Louis River, which had suffered heavy damage from industrial pollution. “It was his vision to see the water of the St. Louis River cleaned up,” she recalls. Each year he would invite legislators and friends for an annual paddle on the river that ended in a barbecue at his home in Duluth. “One year my canoe fell behind, and I found myself stranded with a couple of Republican leaders including the Governor’s attorney! We didn’t have much in common philosophically, but here we were – on the river together – because of Willard.”
Munger was known for his tireless energy and determination. “Sometimes he was the hare, like the Energizer Bunny, and sometimes he was the tortoise. He would work and work away at things,” says Munson. “But he was always in the race.”
In the words of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Munger “truly left this state and Earth a better place than he found it.” We know firsthand that Justin has already accomplished this, and more.
Please join the North Star Chapter leadership in congratulating Justin Fay on this outstanding recognition of his work and leadership.