Greensburg, Kansas is in the middle of nowhere or everywhere, depending on whom you ask. It’s a red town in a red state that became the greenest town in America as a result of rural residents like Ruth Wedel engaging in restorative leadership following a natural disaster. On the evening of May 4, 2007, the town of nearly 1,400 was hit by what was at the time the largest tornado in recorded history. The community of Greensburg chose to transform the devastation to opportunity with a vision that turned the town into a model for the nation and the world. Ruth Ann Wedel, a longtime resident called by some the “unofficial mayor” of Greensburg, was at ground zero of the town’s renewal. Playing a grassroots leadership role with Greensburg GreenTown, the not-for-profit founded to help facilitate the rebuilding, Ruth Ann assisted community organizing and developing a chain of eco-homes to demonstrate sustainable designs. In this interview, a decade since the disaster, Ruth Ann reflects on the community’s sustainability journey of doing the right thing for the future. With grounded insight, humble fortitude, and lighthearted determination, she helps us understand what it takes to engage in restorative leadership to be of highest benefit during the most challenging of times.
On the evening of May 4, 2007, the residents of Greensburg, Kansas were hit with a historic crisis that they transformed to extraordinary possibility when the first recorded EF5 tornado - estimated at 1.7 miles wide traveling at 205 mph - left near total destruction in its wake. Sparking a vision that would turn the town into a model for the nation and the world, community members mobilized to create a more prosperous future for generations to come by rebuilding the devastated town as a sustainable city. Among the visionary locals who initiated the plan is Daniel Wallach. Daniel, whose background includes founding and running the Colorado Association of Nonprofit Organizations, founded Greensburg, GreenTown to facilitate various green initiatives in partnership with the city and community.
Please note that this interview excerpt is transcript only