Meet the Commissioners: Connie Buesgens (Columbia Heights and Hilltop)
Growing up in rural Carver County, Connie Buesgens watched as suburban sprawl gradually turned the peaceful natural areas she loved into roads and housing. The experience led to a lifelong concern for the environment.
“They started fencing up farmland that I used to walk and roam,” she says. “I watched development eat up natural areas.”
Fascinated by weather events, she kept a legal pad on which she would record unusual weather phenomenon. Reflecting on the experience now, she says she was noticing trends that she would later connect with climate change.
Since then, Buesgens has been all over the world: Panama, Peru, China, Germany, England, Italy, and Alaska, to name a few places. She’s lived in Los Angeles, Seattle, and Minneapolis. She’s also had a diverse career that included stints in social services, retail, real estate, and teaching.
Ultimately, it was her love of the environment that led her to her current career in advocacy and public service.
Buesgens lives with her husband in Columbia Heights, where she first moved nearly 20 years ago. As a resident, she started volunteering and eventually co-founded HeightsNEXT, a nonprofit that advocates for environmentally sustainable policies in Columbia Heights.
A visit to a Columbia Heights City Council meeting with a group of neighbors led to her becoming a regular attendee. This, in turn, soon led to an appointment to the city’s planning commission and then another to the MWMO’s Citizen Advisory Committee. In 2016, Buesgens successfully ran for a seat on the city council. She resigned her position on the MWMO’s CAC, but was appointed to the MWMO Board of Commissioners earlier this year.
As an MWMO commissioner, Buesgens represents not only Columbia Heights but also Hilltop, the landlocked “Little City with a Big Heart” that comprises 16 city blocks within Columbia Heights itself.
The MWMO has completed a number of significant projects in the area, including the green stormwater infrastructure at Columbia Heights Library and LaBelle Park, the upgraded water quality and quantity capabilities at Jackson Pond, and Hilltop’s new stormwater retention pond at Harbor Freight Pond. The MWMO also recently awarded a grant for a snow-melt system for the new Columbia Heights City Hall.
At home, Buesgens practices what she preaches as a community member connected to all the big world environmental issues she’s tracked over time. She describes her yard as an urban farm.
“My yard is basically a garden. Flowers, vegetable gardens, pollinator sanctuary. I have chickens. I used to have bees,” she said.
Buesgens has a bachelor’s degree in Social Sciences from the University of Seattle, and a master’s degree in Educational Psychology from the University of Washington. She earned a second degree in education for her teaching license from St. Catherine University.
You can learn more on her website.