Council Member Bios

Meet the Governor’s Council on Minnesota’s Coastal Program.

Carlton County

All three of the Carlton County seats are open. Dan Belden and Dick Brenner are continuing to serve until the governor appoints their replacements.

Dan Belden | Esko, MN | 2016-19

Dan Belden graduated from Esko High School in 1987 and continued his education at Vermillion Community College and Winona State University where he earned a Bachelor of Science Major in School and Community Health Education.

As a senior planner with the Western Lake Superior Sanitary District in Duluth, many of Dan’s responsibilities revolve around protecting, preserving and enhancing the quality of Lake Superior and more specifically the St. Louis River watersheds.

Dick Brenner | Cloquet, MN | 2015-2018+

Dick Brenner is a Carlton County Commissioner and residing in the City of Cloquet. Dick is dedicated to public service and is and active in the Arrowhead Regional Development Commission Board of Directors, Cloquet Educational Foundation Board of Directors, and the Arrowhead Regional Corrections board.

Cook County

Matthew Brown | Grand Marais, MN | 2020-23

Matthew Brown has been a lifelong resident of Minnesota and has been living in Grand Marais, MN for the past 22 years. He was the first captain of North House Folk School’s schooner Hjordis, taking people on day trips as well as multi-day trips around western Lake Superior. During the sails, the Hjordis taught limnology and the history of the Lake increasing his knowledge and love for it. He is passionate about clean water and its healthy ecosystem. Currently he is the Executive Director of WTIP North Shore Community Radio.

Jim Ericson | Hovland, MN | 2020-23

After vacationing along the North Shore for many decades, my wife and I fulfilled a shared dream by moving to a home in Cook County, within walking distance to Lake Superior. As a child, I eagerly anticipated our family’s annual summer trips up to the shore, counting down the days until we would finally begin our journeys north. These trips to the North Shore filled me with tremendous joy, and I carry that childhood joy within me to this day. I have experienced Lake Superior in all seasons and immensely appreciate its expansive, picturesque shorelines, powerful waterfalls, sheer cliffs and pebble beaches. One of my hobbies is photography, and the Lake and its shoreline offer countless opportunities for capturing the incredible, rugged beauty that typifies our North Shore. I volunteered to be on the Coastal Council to provide my insights and feedback on projects that protect, preserve and restore conditions of the Lake; improve public access to the Lakeshore and support the health of the tributaries that flow into our Great Lake.

Tony Swader | Grand Portage, MN |2020-2023

Aniin, Hello! My name is Antonio “Tony” Swader, and I am a Grand Portage Band member and Veteran. I reside and work in Grand Portage on the shores of Lake Superior. I am currently the Trust Lands Administrator for the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa and work with my staff on our natural resources and environmental issues and projects within the 1854 ceded territory. We also have a program for restocking fish from our hatchery for Lake Superior and area lakes.

I have been married to my wife Kathie for 27 years. We have 11 grandchildren and were recently blessed with a great-grandchild. I enjoy hunting, gathering, snowmobiling, exploring and fishing with my wife and family. My concerns for Lake Superior are the high-water levels and the erosion this has caused, along with invasive species making changes to native plants and plankton affecting native fish and fishing regulations to assure future fishing. I look forward to working together so future generations can enjoy this beautiful Lake Superior and all it has to offer.

Lake County

Rick Goutermont | Silver Bay, MN | 2020-23

I have lived in the Silver Bay area my entire life and am fortunate that my children and grandchildren live here also. I am employed at Northshore Mining as a supervisor of operations. I have had the honor of serving as a Lake County commissioner for the past 28 years. I have also been appointed to the Coastal Council since its inception. I enjoy any and all outdoor recreation but most of all I enjoy boating and fishing on Lake Superior. I enjoy being part of the decision process that makes funding available to local governmental units to assist in making lake friendly projects become a reality.

Barb Liukkonen | Two Harbors, MN | 2020-2023

I live in the Stewart River watershed of Lake Superior with my husband and dog, having retired after 30 years of working for the U of MN in water resources. Much of my career was spent addressing issues of importance to the Big Lake, from climate change and invasive species, to shoreland restoration and safe drinking water, through research and outreach. I served on the technical advisory committee for the nascent NSMB back in the 1980s and have remained engaged with Lake Superior since. The opportunity to see the Lake every day and to enjoy outdoor recreation in the Northland recharges my spirit and I’m looking forward to serving on the Coastal Council to help guide future investments in protecting this amazing resource.

Sharon Erickson Ropes | Two Harbors, MN | 2020-23

Born in Two Harbors, just a stone’s throw from Lake Superior, I grew up scrambling over the ledgerock, exploring tidal pools for frog eggs, camping up and down the North Shore, swimming in Gooseberry River and absorbing a deep respect for the ancient waters. I’ve lived next to big water my entire life. My degrees in Nursing and French are from Winona, studying beside our nation’s most beloved river, the Mississippi and beside Paris’ famed Seine River. I spent five years in uniform as a Navy Nurse, of course, living on the Atlantic coast and two years literally in the middle of the Pacific Ocean on Guam. Our lakehome in Twig is an amazing private wetlands habitat, and our log cabin retirement home brings me full circle back to Two Harbors lakeshore. I am a veteran, a grandmother, a former state senator, an organic homesteader, a book lover, writer, traveler, genealogy geek, and an unapologetic clean water advocate.

St. Louis County

Sophia Green | Duluth, MN | 2020-23

I am originally from the small town of Moose Lake where I grew up spending my free time fishing and camping on and around our lakes. I was very passionate about the environment and driven to make environmental changes that would preserve and restore our natural resources and so I moved here to Duluth to pursue an education in Ecology and Political Science. During my time living here in Duluth I have recognized that Lake Superior is a unique and vital resource to our coastal communities in terms of maintaining ecological integrity, access to clean and safe drinking water, opportunities for recreation, and is also a place of cultural significance. As climatic changes continue to threaten our coastal communities, I see important issues arising in climate resiliency. With that being said, I am humbled to volunteer my time in ways that I can influence positive changes and the protection of our resources.

Ellen O’Neill | Duluth, MN | 2020-23

I live in a water rich environment. My house sits on 40 acres of land between two rivers and a mile from Lake Superior. I can step outside some days and hear the roar of the lake. Over the past 50 years I have spent hours in or on Lake Superior and have experienced its power and beauty. I have participated in Duluth Township's comprehensive land use planning and the North Shore Sanitary District planning. All of these experiences have shown me how critical our relationship is to Lake Superior and fresh water. Professionally I have decades of grant review experience and was a grants manager for a statewide foundation. I am excited to bring all of these experiences to my work with the Coastal Council.

Don Schreiner | Town of Duluth, MN | 2020-23

I am a fisheries biologist with more than 35 years of experience managing fisheries in Minnesota, the last 25 years working on Lake Superior and the Great Lakes. I volunteer and am employed part-time as an outreach specialist and educator with Minnesota Sea Grant. My work focuses on transferring technical fisheries information to interested public in a concise and easily understood manner. I address specific questions and issues that are associated with the recreational fisheries statewide along with recreational, commercial and charter fisheries on Lake Superior. I am also involved with exploring environmentally sound aquaculture practices in Minnesota.

Minnesota At-Large

Janice Erickson | Woodbury, MN | 2020-23

I grew up on Lake Superior and am a member of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. I’m currently pursuing a liberal arts degree. I’m an active volunteer, serving on the Washington County Natural Resource Protection & Management System Framework Technical Advisory Team, American Indian Parent Advisory Committee Chair and South Washington County Schools Communicator Committee. I’m currently a mentor for an important project called Our Sacred Water. I love hiking, camping, fishing, wildricing, wild foraging, gardening, picnics at the beach, and finding Lake Superior Agates.

Bill Majewski | Duluth, MN | 2020-23

I grew up on a small dairy farm in NE Wisconsin. I have a degree from the University of Wisconsin Madison from the School of Urban and Regional Planning. After 30 years working in the City of Duluth Planning Department and a total of 40 years in the field, I retired at the end of 2001. I attended the initial announcement meeting of the IJC in Duluth when the AOC was designated in 1987. I have been involved in the cleanup of the St. Louis River since that time. During the early years of my retirement I served 12 years on the Board of Directors of the WLSSD. From 1972, my wife Sue and our two children lived in Morgan Park and have enjoyed getting to know the river very well. Upon leaving the WLSSD Board I still wanted to be involved in the lake and river and was encouraged to apply for the MCC.

Peder Otterson | Eden Prarie, MN | 2020-23

Although I live in the Twin Cities, I have a deep personal attachment to Duluth and the Arrowhead. For many years until they died, my grandparents lived in a log home just outside Duluth. Grandpa made it through the Depression by buying fish from Norwegian fishermen up the shore (~500 pounds weekly), smoking them at home, and then selling them down in the Twin Cities. My folks met at Duluth State Teachers College (now UMD). I was born in Duluth, but grew up in Ohio. The summer months and many Christmases, too, were spent on trips back to Minnesota. I made my first canoe trip when I was four years old. I remember they put me in the bow and told me to look for the portages. My grandmother taught me how to hunt for agates. That’s probably what influenced me to study geology in college. There is a family cabin up the end of the Gunflint Trail. Maybe now, I’ll have a better excuse to get up to see it.