The CURE Board of Directors has chosen Brian Wojtalewicz of Appleton, Minnesota, as this year’s RiverKeeper. CURE invites our members on Saturday, April 23, 2016 for a day of popular education, grassroots action, business, and celebration at CURE’s 24th Annual Membership Meeting. The theme for the day is Act on Minnesota Water, and our RiverKeeper recipient and the topic of the afternoon’s roundtable conversation will be in keeping with that theme.
First awarded in 1994, the RiverKeeper goes to an individual(s), organization or government agency who has worked in an exemplary manner to carry out CURE’s mission “to focus public awareness on the Minnesota River Basin and to take action to restore and protect its water quality, biological integrity, and natural beauty for all generations”.
Choosing this year’s RiverKeeper was an easy decision for the CURE board. Brian Wojtalewicz has been with CURE for nearly as long as CURE has been CURE. He has been a member, served numerous terms on the board, and has been elected CURE’s chair (president) several times. He has worked with five executive directors. His steady commitment and propensity for bold action have made him a driving force for CURE’s long-term sustainability and efficacy.
Brian grew up a farm boy in western Minnesota’s Traverse County in the 1950’s. His family later moved to Appleton where Brian’s dad was a district manager for Midland, a farmer’s co-op.
After graduating from St. John’s University and William Mitchell School of Law, Brian became a trial lawyer first in St. Paul and for more than three decades has run his own firm, managed by his wife Janine, in Appleton.
“We are proud to have helped hundreds of everyday people gain justice for enduring serious injuries, and families with the horror of wrongful death, because of negligence by careless corporations and people,” Brian stated. For more than a decade Wojtalewicz’s law firm has also represented citizen whistleblowers who have turned in major drug corporations (Walgreens, CVS) committing fraud on our Medicare and Medicaid systems. During his career, Brian served as president of the Minnesota Trial Lawyers, and in 2001 was Minnesota Attorney of the Year.
Brian loves paddling streams from the Pomme de Terre to the Grand Canyon, riding bike, hiking and reading. He admits to being addicted to audio books.
Reflecting on CURE’s work, Brian stated that “CURE has been the most conscientious and committed group of citizens in western Minnesota striving for the cleanup and protection of our water, air and soil. Within CURE, we have always had the tension between open advocacy that criticizes the polluters versus trying to work with farmers and industry. We must continue with both efforts.”
He went on to say that “There will always be those who will criticize us (CURE), or worse. Let’s remember that today’s ‘radical’ demands, which we know to be true and right, will become the ‘common sense’ in years that follow.”
RiverKeepers are presented with a coveted production from Tokheim Stoneware, donated each year by Gene and Lucy Tokheim of Dawson, MN. Inscribed on the award is a verse from the Book of Amos: Let justice roll down like a river, integrity like a never failing stream.