At Grist, we love Parks and Recreation. The show is brilliant and funny -- and we especially admire protagonist Lesley Knope. As played by Amy Poehler, the wonderfully multidimensional Knope makes mistakes, but in the end she always manages to pull the Parks Department together to get the job done. And no one loves her hilarious, flawed city more than she does.
In fact, the way we see it, we could all use a little more Knope in our cities. So over the next few months, we will introduce you to the real-life Lesley Knopes of the world: the female city officials who work hard to make their cities more sustainable. Even if Parks and Recreation isn’t your speed, you’ll get a fresh look at the women on the ground fighting to implement real change in our urban environments.
Episode 1 features an edited conversation with Gayle Prest, sustainability director for the city of Minneapolis.
Prest passes the Knope test in two big ways. First, she loves her city. (Sample question: “Are you a big fan of cities?” Answer: “I love Minneapolis. I really love Minneapolis. Have you ever been here?”) Second, she's incredibly friendly. (She offered me a personal tour of the city within the first five minutes of our call and ended the chat with, “and for crying out loud, get your butt out here.”)
While this butt has still not been to Minneapolis, the Minnesota native made the city sound awfully alluring. Prest, who has been with the Minneapolis sustainability office since 2006, told me why sustainability directors across the nation are working together, how Minnesota provides a unique approach to urban sustainability, and why the City of Lakes is just so darn lovable.