CLEAR Project leader resigns suddenly

MARY JO BURKGREN

MARY JO BURKGREN

Local leaders refute Burkgren’s claim CLEAR has ended

The coordinator of the CLEAR Project has resigned her position, effective immediately.

Mary Jo Burkgren, who was named to the post in March 2013 after longtime leader David Knoll stepped down to accept a position with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, is no longer employed by the organization.

Burkgren could not be reached for comment, however Deb Tesar, president of the Association for the Preservation of Clear Lake (APCL), confirmed Burkgren’s departure.

Details of the vacancy have not been made public.

Thursday, June 11, Burkgren posted a message on the CLEAR Project Facebook page stating, “After 20 years the CLEAR Project has been ended. I want to thank all the landowners I had the opportunity to work with and thank you for helping the lake to become better.”  That message has now been removed from the site.

“To say that the CLEAR Project had ended is not accurate,” said Tesar.  “The cooperating entities are all on the same page and committed to the project’s success.”

Burkgren’s position was funded equally by three entities: the City of Clear Lake, APCL and Hancock County Soil and Water Commission.  The Hancock County office served as Burkgren’s manager.  Tesar said as the groups move forward, management of the position will likely be assigned to another source.  Hancock Soil and Water wants to remain involved in the CLEAR Project, but feels it does not have the resources to manage the position, she said.

Those attending a CLEAR Project meeting planned solely by Burkgren earlier this spring said the CLEAR leader accused the City of Clear Lake of being difficult to work with and not being interested in doing any more projects to help the lake.

“Those in attendance pretty much all left the meeting scratching their heads, as I did,” said Tesar.  “It was evident there was a serious communication breakdown with the City of Clear Lake.”

“The City of Clear Lake has funded the CLEAR project for many years now, along with the APCL. There has never been a lack of commitment by any of the partners to the Project,” said Clear Lake City Administrator Scott Flory.  “The City has enjoyed a very successful relationship with previous CLEAR project staff for many years and look forward to being involved with the hiring of a new director and renewing that successful partnership.”

Representatives of the APCL, Hancock Soil and Water Conservation District, City of Clear Lake, Iowa Department of Ag and Land Stewardship and the DNR have since communicated and are moving forward to re-staff, according to Tesar.

“All stakeholders are in agreement that it must go on, and that it needs to be led by someone with outstanding communication skills who is also adept at building relationships,” Tesar shared in an update to APCL members.

A meeting of the CLEAR Project stakeholders is scheduled for June 23.

The CLEAR Project was established in locally following a study and report by Iowa State University Professor Dr. John Downing.  Its goal is to make Clear Lake clear again by helping residents control algae by reducing nutrients loading into the lake from its watershed.

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