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Breaking the Ice: Decades in government shape MPCA leader’s work

Name: John Linc Stine

Title: Commissioner, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency

Education: Bachelor of Science, soil and water resource management, University of Minnesota

John Linc Stine’s experience in other state government roles has been instrumental in shaping his approach as commissioner of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA).

Stine, commissioner since May 2012, previously worked six years as an assistant commissioner at the Minnesota Department of Health, overseeing areas including emergency preparedness, environmental health and infectious disease prevention and control. Before that, he worked as a hydrologist and administrator for 25 years with the state Department of Natural Resources.

As MPCA commissioner, Stine leads an agency that monitors environmental quality, enforces environmental regulations and cleans up toxic spills and leaks.

“Our work is not just about a healthy and clean and safe environment for the sake of the environment,” Stine said. “It’s for the sake of the people that live and recreate and breathe and work and sustain their life from our communities and our environment.”

Q. What’s the best way to start a conversation with you?

A. Ask me about something that happened in my life or tell me about something that happened in your life. I best enjoy the interpersonal stuff. I’m OK having a conversation about public policy, science or details but I really like getting to know people and their perspective from their life experience.

Q. What books are on your bedside table or e-reader?

A. I am reading “Laudato Si,” the pope’s encyclical on care of our common home. The other one is Wendell Berry, “The Way of Ignorance.” It’s a series of essays. He’s a poet and an author who writes extensively about sustainability and about the transition from the old ways of living especially farming and the new modern ways of living and farming. Not so much decrying the modern technology as it is a loss of connection the land and to the water and the soil.

Q. What is a pet peeve of yours?

A. I feel like there’s been a loss of reasoned discourse in political exchange. I miss that and it’s a pet peeve of mine. I will just leave conversations that don’t have a respectful exchange of ideas, sources of information, references.

We can disagree without being offensive. If you actually listen to each other I think you grow, you improve your ability to choose and live.

Q. What’s a favorite activity outside your job?

A. Church. I play guitar and sing at my parish (The Catholic Church of Corpus Christi in Roseville). I’ve done that for 38 years, the same amount of time I’ve been employed in state government. I play guitar and sing. My wife sings with me. We have a small group and then I sing with larger groups. I’ve done music ministry work and have taught a lot of confirmation over the years. We are very engaged in our spiritual life with our community and friends at our church.

Q. If someone visits you in your hometown, what would you take them to see or do?

A. I always take them to see St. Paul because everybody thinks about Minneapolis. I take them to the Capitol. I take them to see the Mississippi River from Mounds Park or one of the bridges because the river is so fantastic.

Q. Has an event or person inspired you?

A. Right now I’m totally inspired by Pope Francis. His call to the world to respect the Earth and respect each other, that all of us are powerless when it comes to the planet and the universe around us. I am inspired by his inclusivity and his desire for meaningful dialogue.

Q. If you’re not at your desk, you’re probably where?

A. Most of the time in meetings and traveling. I do a lot of public speaking. I’m on a couple of different national organizations, the Great Lakes Commission, which covers all the states and provinces that are on the Great Lakes, and the Environmental Council of the States which is a group of my colleagues from other states, and I am the president of that organization this year.

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