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Former St. Paul Council Member Lee Helgen heads nonprofit land-use group

The former City Council member who lost his re-election bid last year, is the new executive director of Envision Minnesota.

Lee Helgen, the former St. Paul City Council member who lost his re-election bid last year, has been named the executive director of Envision Minnesota, the sustainable land-use nonprofit formerly known as 1,000 Friends of Minnesota.

Helgen had been an eight-year incumbent when he lost by 33 votes last November to newcomer Amy Brendmoen.

Helgen, who starts the job Monday, said in a statement: “I am excited to join Envision Minnesota at this time and I look forward to making a positive difference across the region and state.”

The group, based in St. Paul, says it liked Helgen’s sustainability work on the city council:

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He led the effort to promote green building design guidelines, substantially increasing the number of LEED certified buildings in Saint Paul and across the region.

In addition, he managed two statewide associations of local government professionals focused on influencing state and federal policy related to workforce development and public health.

The group was founded in 1998 as 1000 Friends of Minnesota and changed its name in April. On its website the group says:

We envision a state with vibrant cities and towns close to clean rivers, lakes, and parks. A state where people have the freedom to choose how they get around and there are housing options for people at all income levels and stages of life. A state that invests its taxpayer money wisely, and sees its economic competitiveness directly tied to its high quality of life. In short, we envision a Minnesota focused on thoughtful development and thriving communities.

Sally Wakefield had been executive director, but in June the group announced that it planned to combine the executive director and land-use policy director roles and hire a new person for the job.