Kim Wright grows food, flowers and organizations.
The former director of conservation programs for The Nature Conservancy, Wright, 56, spent six years as executive director of Domestic Abuse Intervention Services before shifting her focus back to her passion for the environment.
After six years as manager of the state's Knowles-Nelson Stewardship grant program to preserve natural areas and protect water quality, Wright became executive director of the nonprofit Midwest Environmental Advocates, where she brings skills as a lawyer and administrator to growing the organization.
Q: What led you to this organization?
A: It wasn't just practicing law in a vacuum. We're all about community-based lawyering. You're fighting giant polluters, so without lawyers, citizens don't have a prayer.
Q: What specifically does the organization do?
A: We represent citizens fighting for their rights in the environment. A big part of that ends up to be fighting for clean government.
Q: When you say clean government, what do you mean?
A: In all the major environment laws, citizens have very specific rights to participate in decision-making, and that's been narrowed and narrowed and narrowed and narrowed. So we end up fighting for the right for people to be heard as much as enforcing actual environmental laws. And that's an important part. Without watchdogs, our environmental laws aren't really worth much.
Q: What makes you effective in your role?
A: When you're working for the public interest, you're always facing giants and you're always facing hard things with very few resources, but I've learned to have faith from the people who came before me. We're in very dire circumstances on the planet, and I have three grandchildren and I will not give up.
Q: How would other people describe you?
A: The sense of right and wrong really matters to me. The common good is important. When people break rules just because they can, I don't like that. I'm willing to be unpopular to stand up for something.
Q: Aside from your work, what's important to you?
A: I spend a lot of time outside. I'm a gardener. I grow a lot of food, grow a lot of flowers. When I first came to Wisconsin I was a back-to-the-lander. I grew my own soybeans and made my own tofu.
Q: Is there an issue that's most important to you?
A: Water is what is at the bottom of everything for me. In Wisconsin, we are very blessed with all these amazing water resources, but they're being degraded. Our groundwater has very little (legal) protection. It's very vulnerable both in quantity and quality. We can live without oil. We cannot live without water.