It’s an event Alison Bettin didn’t plan for.

The 36-year-old Winona State University student, who’s double majoring in public administration and ecology, with a minor in sustainability, couldn’t have asked for a more perfect internship than the one she’ll begin with the city of La Crescent on May 10.

Bettin was selected as the city’s GreenStep intern, which requires a blend of data collection, attention to detail, and a keen interest in green practices and public administration.

“It really is the perfect storm for me,” she said.

She’s a non-traditional student, coming to Winona State already with a degree in the culinary arts, and having spent a career as an event planner for gold and country clubs in the Rochester area.

“I didn’t feel like I was fulfilled,” she said.

Her passion is sustainability, and she figured her best companion, to affect real change, was a blend of public service and science.

“We don’t have many government employees who have an understanding of science,” she said.

Now, she’ll be a little step closer to her goal, which is to use her degrees through governmental units for the good of the public as a whole.

The Minnesota GreenStep Cities program is a voluntary one which offers a number of different levels, or steps, recognizing the implementation of 29 “best practices,” which range from ease of planning and tracking through transportation and environmental management, to even land use, economic development and buildings and lighting.

Tim Hruska, La Crescent city engineer with WHKS, said Bettin will start by doing energy audits on all the city-owned buildings, where she’ll gather and input information, work with GreenStep officials, and follow a provided manual, which lays out her duties by week.

“As we were working through this process, it became clear to everyone that a lot of these best practices, the city is already doing,” Hruska said. “A lot of it’s already interwoven.”

The program ensures it’s part of the decision-making process.

“With every decision they’re making in the future,” he said, “that there’s a green component to it. That it’s at least thought of and put on the table.”

But there has to be data to put on the table, and that’s where Bettin comes in.

Winona State University actually hired her, because they have a relatively new sustainability minor. The $1,500 Bettin will earn for her work until December is paid out of the city’s general fund, approved by the La Crescent City Council. A posting for position caught the eye of GreenStep officials, and that led the city to connecting with Dr. Jeanne Franz, who oversees the three-year-old sustainability minor at Winona State.

“This is really what Alison is going to school for,” Franz said.

She called Bettin a “dynamo,” someone who cares as much for the process as she does about its outcome. It’s also possible once the groundwork is laid, more opportunities for interns could await in the future.

“We would definitely have students who would be available,” she said.

La Crescent City Administrator Bill Waller said the program aims to reduce energy costs and the carbon footprint, while enhancing sustainable and renewable practices.

“To improve the quality of life,” Waller said.

It’s a sign that the community is making a conscious decision in taking these steps, and he assured Bettin’s efforts as most definitely needed and appreciated.

For Bettin, it’s fits perfectly with her passion and her profession.

“It gives the city, or institution, a framework, a foundation to start with,” she said about GreenStep. “It’s very exciting to think about.”

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