Mission

Friends of the Falls was founded in February 2016 by Paul Reyelts and Mark Wilson as a 501c(3) public non-profit, with a mission to re-purpose the Upper St. Anthony Falls Lock and Dam to a world class destination and visitor center.

Board of Directors

The Friends of the Falls Board of Directors is comprised of civic leaders who have a deep commitment to public service, cultural and educational enrichment, and placemaking.

Friends of the Falls is a public charity committed to achieving and sustaining diversity on our Board of Directors. A Nominating Committee was formed in 2020 in service to that ongoing mission. Friends of the Falls has made a commitment to prioritize gender, racial and cultural diversity when seeking new members. Friends of the Falls has also partnered with the Native American Community Development Institute to train Board members on issues sensitive to the Native American community and create meaningful engagement with First Nations people.

Mark Andrew, President

Mark Andrew became President of Friends of the Falls in October 2019. He is Founder and President of GreenMark Enterprises, LLC, a sustainability consultancy that brands sustainable improvements to high profile venues, and is Co-Founder and past President of GreenMark Solar, LLC. Previously, Andrew was elected five times to the Hennepin County Board of Commissioners. As County Board Chair, Andrew initiated and authored the first dedicated urban hiking and biking trails in the Twin Cities (Midtown Greenway), was chief author of the state’s first and largest recycling ordinance, and was Chair of the transit authority that planned and selected the state’s first light rail transit line. He helped to lead the effort to acquire and preserve the Stone Arch Bridge and re-build the Hennepin Avenue Bridge. Andrew's initiatives won more than a dozen Innovation Awards from the National Association of Counties. In recent years Andrew has been a professional commentator for StarTribune.com; served on the Board of Thinc.Green, Minneapolis’ strategic sustainability initiative; and in 2017 was Chair of Save Our Minneapolis Parks, a non-profit group that successfully secured over $220 million for long-term capital improvements to the City’s park system. Andrew is immediate past Chair of the Board of Meet Minneapolis, the city’s tourism agency, and continues to be a sought-after resource for candidates and environmental and justice causes.

Edna Brazaitis

Edna Brazaitis, an attorney and riverfront champion, cofounded Friends of the Riverfront, a nonprofit whose mission is to protect and preserve the cultural and natural resources of the Central Mississippi Riverfront Regional Park. Since 2005, Friends of the Riverfront has advocated for riverfront parks. Edna is active on numerous boards and committees. In addition to Friends of the Falls, she serves as the Minnesota Historical Society appointee to the St. Anthony Falls Heritage Board, and is on the board of Preserve Minneapolis. She previously served on the board of Mississippi Riverfront Partnership. Edna is also a member of the St. Anthony Falls Alliance. She has advised on numerous plans and initiatives related to parks, heritage, and riverfront development over decades.  From riverfront and St. Anthony park planning by the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board to area planning by the City of Minneapolis to the Power of the Falls planning done by the St. Anthony Falls Heritage Board, Edna has been an engaged and valued advisor.

 

Thomas Fisher

Thomas Fisher is a Professor in the School of Architecture, Director of the Minnesota Design Center, and former Dean of the College of Design at the University of Minnesota. A graduate of Cornell University in architecture and Case Western Reserve University in intellectual history, he was the Editorial Director of Progressive Architecture magazine and was recognized in 2005 as the fifth most published architecture writer in the United States. He has written or edited 11 books, over 60 book chapters or introductions and over 450 articles in professional journals and major publications, and he serves on several nonprofit boards.

Peter L. Gove

Peter Gove held executive positions in corporate communications and government relations with Control Data and St. Jude Medical. In the public sector, Peter was Governor Wendell R. Anderson’s environmental assistant, MPCA Commissioner, founding member of the Environmental Quality Board, U.S. Senate Legislative Director and Assistant Director of the National Park Service.  He is the principal founder and board member of Friends of the Mississippi River, past chair of the St. Croix River Association, on The Trust for Public Land’s Minnesota Advisory Board and NPCA Upper Midwest Council, a trustee of Northland College and the Great Lakes Protection Fund, and an Episcopal Homes of Minnesota board member.

Lisa Hondros, Secretary

Lisa Hondros cofounded Friends of the Riverfront, a nonprofit whose mission is to protect and preserve the cultural and natural resources of the Central Mississippi Riverfront Regional Park. Since 2005, Friends of the Riverfront has advocated for riverfront parks. Over the years, Lisa has worked on political campaigns and been active in the community. She currently serves as Treasurer for the Nicollet Island East Bank Neighborhood Association Board and is a member of the Trust for Public Land Minnesota Advisory Board. Lisa received her undergraduate degree in history from Carleton College and a law degree from the University of Pennsylvania. She practiced law at Dorsey & Whitney from 1989-1992.

John Koepke

John Koepke is a Professor of Landscape Architecture in the College of Design at the University of Minnesota and the Department’s former Chair. Along with his responsibilities as a Full Professor he is a principle at the firm Urban Ecosystems LLC.  Because of his Ojibwe heritage John has had significant interests in both Native American cultures and environmental science. This has led him to conduct landscape-based research on ancient Native American sites and work with tribal and other communities in pursuing teaching and design opportunities that focus on environmental education, ecological restoration and reclamation. He holds a 5-year professional Bachelor’s of Landscape Architecture degree from the University of Minnesota and a Master’s degree in Landscape Architecture from the University of Washington. He was recently elected as a Fellow of the Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture.

Greg Lais

Greg Lais is a successful entrepreneur, avid outdoorsman, and longtime adventurer. He founded Wilderness Inquiry in 1978 after a trip to the Boundary Waters involving people with disabilities. Now, 40 years later, the belief that people of all abilities can enjoy and benefit from the outdoors continues to be at the heart of Wilderness Inquiry’s mission. Greg’s passion for connecting people to each other and the natural world is truly inspirational. As Executive Director of Wilderness Inquiry, Greg Lais directed the organization’s growth and development, collaborating with cross-sector partners to build a world-class organization that directly serves more than 40,000 people annually. In addition to his role as chief architect of Wilderness Inquiry’s mission, vision and programming, Greg has personally led more than 400 outdoor adventure experiences throughout the world, successfully integrating people of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities. Greg Lais recognizes people’s personal, socio-economic, and cultural differences, but he focuses on their common humanity and connects with everyone. Today, Greg Lais is Wilderness Inquiry’s Director of Strategic initiatives, guiding the organization to success over the next 40 years. He also serves on the Metropolitan State University Foundation Board of Directors as well as Governor Walz’s Outdoor Recreation Task Force.

Melissa Olson

Melissa Olson (she/her/hers) makes her living as a writer and producer of independent public media. Melissa is the co-managing editor the MinneCulture program at KFAI Fresh Air Community Radio in Minneapolis producing short stories, audio documentaries, a podcast, and in-studio concerts. She also worked as a producer for MinneCulture for 2 years producing a number of short stories. Melissa received a Page One – Third Place prize from the Minnesota Society for Professional Journalists for her work on a short story called An Unvarnished, Unholy Tour of Franklin Avenue.

Melissa also produces long-form audio documentary. Her award-winning audio documentary Stolen Childhoods was produced in collaboration with KFAI. Melissa was the recipient of a Page One – Second Place Award for Special Projects in Radio from Minnesota Society for Professional Journalists for her work on Stolen Childhoods.

Melissa is also currently collaborating with Migizi Communications, a project to digitize the Migizi Communications legacy radio archive, a digitization project encompassing 15 years of first-in-time radio programming by Native producers focused on Native communities throughout the United States and Canada.

Melissa is a proud 2019 Association of Independents in Radio (AIR) Fellow, and attended the Third Coast Audio as a part of the 2019 AIR cohort.

In 2018, Melissa was the recipient of a Minnesota State Arts grant working in collaboration with KFAI Fresh Air Radio to create a short audio documentary about the work of artist Brad Kahlhamer and his 2019 exhibit at the Minnesota Museum of American Art.

Over the past two years, Melissa has also worked as a trainer with the City of Minneapolis’s ReCAST program delivering two trainings each year on topics related to the history of Indigenous communities in Minneapolis. Melissa is a returning panelist and contributor to More Than A Single Story, a series of panel discussions/public conversations where writers of color discuss issues of importance to them in their own voices and in their own words.

Melissa is a graduate of the University of Minnesota’s College of Liberal Arts, and completed three years of graduate study between 2003 and 2006, a proud recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship for her work in American Studies.

Melissa (she/her/hers) is an Indigenous person of mixed Anishinaabe and Euro-American heritage, a tribal citizen of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe at Leech Lake. Melissa lives in Minneapolis with her boyfriend John and their dog Bronson.

Paul Reyelts, Chair of the Board & Treasurer

Paul Reyelts was the Chief Financial Officer of The Valspar Corporation from 1982 until 2008 and retired in 2009 to pursue his interest in design. He received a Bachelor of Arts in architecture from Harvard College and an MBA from Harvard Business School. Paul is a director of Winmark Corporation and Schafer Richardson Development, a member of the Advisory Board of the University of Minnesota College of Design and serves on the Boards of Directors of The Minneapolis Foundation, MacPhail Center for Music, The Minneapolis Parks Foundation and Gold Medal Park Conservancy. He is currently chair of the RiverFirst Capital Campaign and is co-founder and Chair of the Board of Friends of the Falls.

Kit Richardson

Kit Richardson is a founding Principal and owner of Schafer Richardson, LLC, a Minneapolis based real estate development firm. A registered Architect, Kit began his professional career working in the office of famed Minneapolis Architect, Ralph Rapson, before forming his own architectural firm with another partner. After spending a number of years practicing architecture, and later working in the real estate investment brokerage industry, he co-founded Schafer Richardson, LLC in 1995. Kit spends the majority of his time at SR in conceptual design, entitlement, and construction review of virtually all of SR’s projects, with a special interest in historic properties.

Angela Two Stars

Angela Two Stars is a public artist and curator. She is the director of All My Relations Arts, a project of the Native American Community Development Institute in Minneapolis, MN. Angela is an enrolled member of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate and received her BFA from Kendall College of Art and Design. Angela 's professional arts career began at All My Relations Arts gallery as an exhibiting artist, which then led to further opportunities including her first curatorial role for the exhibition titled, Bring Her Home, Stolen Daughters of Turtle Island, a powerful exhibition highlighting the ongoing epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women. Angela 's public art graces the shores of Bde Maka Ska and honors the Dakota people of Mni Sota. Angela was recently selected as the finalist for the Walker Art Center’s Indigenous Public Art Commission which will be installed in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden in the fall of 2020.

Mark Wilson, Vice Chair

Mark Wilson is of counsel with the Minneapolis law firm of Henson Efron and focuses on commercial real estate development and business transactions. He is a board member of Winmark Corporation, The Goodman Group, Gold Medal Park Conservancy and past board member of The St. Paul Foundation (chair), Minnesota Community Foundation (chair) and GiveMn.org. Mr. Wilson enjoys whitewater rafting and skiing, and is a cum laude graduate of Carleton College and the University of Minnesota Law School.

Staff

Mark Andrew, President

Mark Andrew became President of Friends of the Falls in October 2019. He is Founder and President of GreenMark Enterprises, LLC, a sustainability consultancy that brands sustainable improvements to high profile venues, and is Co-Founder and past President of GreenMark Solar, LLC. Previously, Andrew was elected five times to the Hennepin County Board of Commissioners. As County Board Chair, Andrew initiated and authored the first dedicated urban hiking and biking trails in the Twin Cities (Midtown Greenway), was chief author of the state’s first and largest recycling ordinance, and was Chair of the transit authority that planned and selected the state’s first light rail transit line. He helped to lead the effort to acquire and preserve the Stone Arch Bridge and re-build the Hennepin Avenue Bridge. Andrew's initiatives won more than a dozen Innovation Awards from the National Association of Counties. In recent years Andrew has been a professional commentator for StarTribune.com; served on the Board of Thinc.Green, Minneapolis’ strategic sustainability initiative; and in 2017 was Chair of Save Our Minneapolis Parks, a non-profit group that successfully secured over $220 million for long-term capital improvements to the City’s park system. Andrew is immediate past Chair of the Board of Meet Minneapolis, the city’s tourism agency, and continues to be a sought-after resource for candidates and environmental and justice causes.

Kjersti Monson, Director of The Falls Initiative

Kjersti is the CEO of Duval Companies, related firms which provide development, design and policy solutions for public, private and nonprofit entities. She is a partner at Duval, where she founded and directs the Civic Studio. Kjersti served as the Minneapolis Planning Director from 2013-2016.  She brings an implementation-based perspective to projects with both public and private interests, where design matters. Kjersti is an affiliate of the Minnesota Design Center at the University of MN, where she also serves as adjunct faculty teaching urban design. She serves on the Center for Transportation Studies Executive Committee, and on committees for the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board, Meet Minneapolis, and Minneapolis Downtown Council. Kjersti earned a Master in Urban Planning and Master in Landscape Architecture from Harvard, and a BA in English from Hamline. She is married with two children and lives in downtown Minneapolis.

Amanda Wigen, Communications Director

Amanda started her career in New York City managing programming and operations at the Bryant Park and 34th Street Partnership business improvement districts. She then returned to her Midwestern roots to help establish the park conservancy Green Minneapolis. As part of a two-person team, Wigen launched the revitalized Peavey Plaza and the new downtown park The Commons.  At both sites, Wigen was crucial in developing flexible and cost-effective operating plans and building relationships with stakeholders and the community. In addition to the ins-and-outs of public space management, Amanda has experience in non-profit management, market analysis, event production, communications and development. Amanda is a consultant to Biederman Redevelopment Ventures, applying learnings from cities big and small to park and urban redevelopment projects across the United States. She graduated from Vassar College with a degree in Urban Studies.

Angela Shober, Business Manager

Angela joined Friends of the Falls in April 2020 with 20+ years of administrative and accounting experience. She has worked for a large local accounting firm as well as independently. Most recently, she has been involved with personal accounting and administrative services for area executives along with several private family foundations and businesses. Angela is responsible for basic accounting functions for Friends of the Falls including vendor payments, generating invoices, processing receipts, banking, generating financial reports and coordinating with auditors. Angela and her husband reside in the west metro and have two grown children and two dogs.  In her spare time she enjoys being outdoors, travel and photography.