Two Minutes with John Stine, ECOS President and Commissioner of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency
How long have you been Commissioner? What’s your best experience thus far?
5 Years – I was appointed on May 12, 2012 by Governor Mark Dayton.
My favorite experience has been the multiple steps that have culminated in agency-wide reporting for results on our mission: protecting and restoring the environment and enhancing human health. By challenging and empowering the staff to use the environmental monitoring and program data to develop an annual dashboard, I feel like our scientific and data management expertise is providing plain language responses to direct questions that Minnesotans want to have answered.
How has being a member of ECOS benefitted you?
I have gained perspective about issues I face in my role from my peers in other states. I have also brought home many insights on best management practice from my colleagues. For example, I used continuous improvement materials and practices from my colleagues in Arizona, Kansas, and Tennessee directly in refining and implementing our Agency’s approach. Similarly, I found great examples to apply to my working relationship with U.S. EPA by speaking with colleagues from other regions of the country.
What is the best management advice you’ve received?
Remember the difference between customers and shareholders in the conduct of our environmental and public health enterprise. Being clear on this will help define the value of the products and services we design and deliver; when you can clearly define value, you can address the public and elected officials more effectively. This clarity will assist in building trust and support for the work we do.
What leader do you most admire?
They are too many to name. Within ECOS, I respect and admire many of my colleagues who have dedicated their careers to public service and persisted in working for the common good. Locally, I have the highest admiration for Governor Mark Dayton. Not only is he my boss, but more importantly, he has served the people of Minnesota with distinction for 4 decades in public service, stabilizing the state’s budget and championing clean water for Minnesota.
What is your role in ECOS and areas of focus?
I am currently the President of ECOS. I have previously served as vice chair of the Planning Committee and chair of the Air Committee. In addition to focusing on the transition to Cooperative Federalism 2.0 and the 2016-2020 ECOS Strategic Plan, my areas of emphasis during my year as ECOS president are: showing the results of our work (i.e., public health & environmental outcomes); innovation, productivity, and collaboration; improving water through investment and communication; and advancing equity at all levels.
Is there a mentor that made a difference in your life?
My high school wrestling coach had a big impact on me. He pulled me aside and taught me what it meant to live life in a courteous way. His early lessons in having respect, kindness, and consideration for others have been memorable throughout my life.
Tell us about your morning ritual.
My day starts at 5:15 am. Coffee and morning devotional reading from the Bible. Around 6:30, my wife and I have morning devotions, prayer, and talk through daily details for 20-30 minutes. Then, I’m off to the bus stop (about a 1-mile walk). I arrive at the office by 7:45 where I have more coffee and toast with peanut butter!
What was your childhood dream job?
Geologist – I had a great love of rock hounding. My dad grew up in central Illinois and had a fantastic collection of fossils and geodes. Thankfully, I have had the chance to work on geology as a hydrologist and soil scientist in my career.
What’s your favorite moment of your career so far?
One of my most favorite moments was helping to deliver more than $100M in state-funded flood damage reduction grants to more than 100 Minnesota communities recovering from the largest statewide flooding ever experienced in 1997. We were able to address community resilience and reduce damages from future floods.
My most rewarding experience was the work I did while at the Minnesota Department of Health to identify health risks and reduce drinking water contamination from PFAS compounds in the southeast Twin Cities Metropolitan Area from 2005–2010. This led to major projects to clean up groundwater, improve drinking water treatment, and conduct human biomonitoring to verify reduction of exposure to PFAS in the affected population.
What was your first real job?
I washed dishes at a locally franchised restaurant – Bridgeman’s. Its specialty was ice cream service and we served short-order lunch and supper. I worked my way to being a cook and then assistant manager.
Guilty Pleasure: What can you not live without?
White Castle cheeseburgers and onion chips.
If Hollywood made a movie of your life, who would you like to see play the lead role as you?
I think I would like Jason Alexander (George Costanza character in Seinfeld) to play me. He’s very funny and some say we look like each other. Also, he’s a fantastic singer to boot.