63 minutes | Apr 19, 2020

Empowering Women Podcast S2: Karen Sands, Director of Planning, Research, & Sustainability at Milwaukee MSD

Episode 2 (Season 2) of the Empowering Women Podcast

GUEST: Karen Sands, Director of Planning, Research, and Sustainability for the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District


Bio: Karen Sands is the Director of Planning, Research and Sustainability for the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District (MMSD) where she’s worked for over 15 years. As director, she integrates grey and green infrastructure planning to recycle wastewater, reduce energy use/switch to renewables, and manage river and stormwater flooding. With a career spanning 30 years, Karen has held a number of planning positions in the public and private sectors in Wisconsin, Maine, and New York. She spent the first half of her career helping highway and airport runway projects move forward, and she’s spending the second half ensuring that infrastructure is designed with nature in mind. She is certified by the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) and is an Envision Sustainability Professional (ENV SP). She serves on several boards including the Water Quality Board of the International Joint Commission (Legacy Issues, U.S. Lead), Southeastern Wisconsin Watersheds Trust Inc., Northwest Side Community Development Corporation (Vice Chair), Discovery World, and the Wisconsin Chapter of the American Planning Association (Secretary).


Notable Quotes:

“I think mentorship is important for everyone. Sponsorship is important for anyone who wants and believes in the need for upward mobility. …”


“And then the network is really important. It’s not always one person who can make the magic happen, but it’s who you know. And it’s not like using people. It’s more like using the good will of relationships you’ve transparently and genuinely built.”


“Any leader who wants to be believed… they have to be able to say, ‘here’s what it is!’ And hang their laundry out.”


“She said, ‘Mom, you’re old enough you’re going to die from old age, but I’m going to die from climate change.’ I was floored; the next generation really understands what must be done. And so my advice to her was - you need to get a firm hold on the science, and the data of what you’re going to be talking about.”


“What’s important is - to connect what’s true and intrinsic to your soul, to what you want to do and what you want to change. Without that, you’re just pushing paper and making widgets.”


“Don’t just innovate; let’s talk about disruption!”



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