2017 Environmental Initiative Award Winner: Critical Collaborators

In honor of our 25th Anniversary, we're honoring those who have made substantial impact on Minnesota's environmental community. The Critical Collaborator award recognizes individuals over the age of 50 who have not only been influential and effective environmental leaders, but who value collaboration to reach solutions. Get to know Ron Nargang and Mike Robertson below.

Ron Nargang

Ron Nargang spent his career working with diverse stakeholder groups in Minnesota, including extensive experience with government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and the private sector. 

Nargang spent 33 years in resource management in several capacities, including 23 years with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), where he served as the Director of Waters for four years and as the Deputy Commissioner for eight years. After leaving the DNR, Nargang joined the Minnesota Chapter of The Nature Conservancy (TNC) as the Assistant State Director for Conservation Programs and later as the State Director, where he served for seven years.

He also has extensive experience in the formulation, passage, and implementation of public policy initiatives, playing a key role in the Reinvest In Minnesota Program, Wetlands Conservation Act, and Groundwater Protection Act.

His other professional commitments included:

  • Chairing the Citizens Committee for Restoration of the Minnesota River
  • Being appointed by the Secretary of Interior to Chair the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area Citizens Committee
  • Representing Governor Carlson on the Upper Mississippi River Basin Association
  • Sitting on the Governor’s Liaison Committee to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
  • Co-chairing the Red River Flood Damage Reduction Work Group

Nargang also facilitated several stakeholder projects for Environmental Initiative, including the Agricultural Leadership Dialogue (2011), the Chemical Regulation and Green Chemistry Project (2010), the Mercury TMDL stakeholder process (2007), and the Integrated Solid Waste Management stakeholder process (2008), and many more. 

Throughout his career, Nargang demonstrated a commitment to the use of partnerships to resolve difficult policy issues and always worked to find win-win solutions in diverse stakeholder groups.

Read Ron's Interview »


“Ron is widely recognized throughout Minnesota’s environmental and natural resource community as a master of collaboration, both with a history of playing the role of partner and in his facilitation and convening skills. He helped to build a culture of engagement and partnership within DNR, where he served in various leadership roles over numerous years, encouraging development of key staff as facilitators and process experts.”

“He not only shaped how his own organizations approach stakeholder work and convening, but he helped define collaboration and partnership for the wider community of environmental leaders.”

“The articulation of Environmental Initiative’s values reflects Ron’s legacy. He was courageously innovative, outcome focused, open, authentic, and humble in all circumstances.”


Mike Robertson has been a key player in environmental policy development in Minnesota for more than 30 years. 

At the time of his retirement, he was providing environmental policy consultation to the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce and was a co-chair of Clean Air Minnesota. During his tenure, he… 

  • Worked for the Minnesota State Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee
  • Was the first Director of the Legislative Commission on Waste Management
  • Spent nine years with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency as its Assistant and Deputy Commissioner
  • Served as Director of the Minnesota Office of Waste Management
  • Served on Environmental Initiative’s Board of Directors for 10 years

As an attorney, Robertson practiced in the areas of environmental law and government relations at Larkin, Hoffman, Daly & Lindgren. 

Over his career, Robertson has been personally involved in nearly every major environmental law passed by the Minnesota Legislature since the 1980s.

Read Mike's Interview »


“[Robertson] was involved in so many things because he epitomized being an effective collaborator and problem solver.”

“Mr. Robertson was also unwavering in his dedication to finding solutions to environmental problems through collaboration. Environmental challenges were opportunities to engage in a constructive dialogue. Whenever asked, he participated not as an adversary, but rather as one of many equals bringing a unique perspective, voice, and skill.”

“With his steady hand, each partner in Clean Air Minnesota could play their part and work to their strengths for the good of the partnership.”

Event Details

Thursday, May 25, 2017
5:00 - 5:45 p.m. Registration & reception
5:45 - 8:00 p.m. Dinner & program
8:00 - 9:00 p.m. Dessert & reception 

Nicollet Island Pavilion
40 Power Street
Minneapolis, MN 55401

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2017 Award Winners »

About the Awards »

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Guidelines and Eligibility »

Evaluation Criteria and Judging »

Sponsor the Awards »

Past Finalists and Winners »

Presenting Sponsors

Environmental Lay Group

Great River Energy

Reception sponsor

25th Anniversary Sponsors


Community Action

Critical Collaborator

Stoel Rives LLP

Emerging Leader


Energy and Climate

The Weidt Group

Natural Resources

Sustainable Business

Supporting Sponsors

Minnesota Power

partner SPONSORs

In-kind sponsors


CliftonLarsonAllen LLP

Consulate General of Canada

Rochester Public Utilities

Associate Sponsors

Bremer Bank
G & K Services
Nova Consulting
Smith Partners