When she first moved to Port Washington in 2001, Mindy Germain was pushing her daughter’s stroller in Blumenfeld Park when she spotted something that would later become a major part of her life.
“I saw all these people wearing these T-shirts that said ‘Residents For a More Beautiful Port Washington’ doing clean up in the park,” Germain remembered in a phone interview. “And I remember like instantly feeling like, ‘oh my God I can’t believe we have a group like this,’ and I really wanted to be a part of it.”
For someone like Germain, who while living in New York City had worked as an independent consultant on communications projects for national nonprofits like the Martin Luther King Foundation and Hope Through Housing, taking part in a program like Residents For a More Beautiful Port Washington, later to be known as Residents Forward, was more than appealing.
“So when my friend told me that they needed a little bit of help on a project, I was all over it,” Germain said. “I just fell in love with the group, and it went from that project to another project, and eventually phased into becoming their executive director.”
Germain has served as Residents Forward’s executive director for 13 years, and after innumerable projects in the Port community, is planning on leaving her post by the end of the summer.
Throughout Germain’s term, Residents Forward has initiated programs like the Port Washington Mural Project and their environmental education program.
“When I first came on board we were just doing some small environmental programs in the schools,” Germain said. “And now, we have a leadership program for elementary school students, we have a youth climate summit for middle school and high school students, and we have after school workshops that are fulfilling a need for this the students that really are passionate about the environment and want to make it their pursuit.”
Witnessing each year’s Clean Green Main Street cleanup, which prepares the Port shopping district for the spring, is also special for Germain.
“It’s a simple thing but it brings the whole community together to take care of the area,” Germain said. “It always just makes me feel so good to see people of all ages come out give a couple of hours and clean up our main street so that it looks great for the spring.”
Later into her tenure, Germain began applying her findings from Residents Forward to other areas, most notably through her founding of the Western Nassau County Aquifer Committee.
“When I started it was a small group and we’d meet around a table, and now on the committee, we have about 75 partners,” Germain said. “There are municipalities, water suppliers environmentalists and scientists, and our group really helped get a $6 million sustainability study off the ground for Long Island.”
The survey motivated Germain to run for a spot as commissioner of the Port Washington Water District, and last year she was re-elected for a third term on the board.
“What I was learning working Residents, I wanted to bring it to practice,” Germain said. “One of the things that I love about my job is that it’s always evolving. It’s really the most important part of my job, is being able to look at what’s going on in the community and identifying where the needs are and just adapting and being innovative to meet those challenges.”
She cites the creation of the Soundview shuttle, which takes commuters to the Port Washington Long Island Rail Road station from the Soundview area, as one of the projects that came from a community need.
“Parking has been an issue in our community for as long as I’ve lived here,” Germain said. “We really wanted to get a commuter shuttle off the ground but they’re really hard to get because they’re very expensive, but we didn’t stop. We interviewed 1,200 commuters and got the data that we needed to get to prove our case. Now we’re one of the first shuttle pilots on Long Island and its its people and found you are loving it and we’re we’re hoping to expand.”
Public transportation is one area that Germain will be tackling in her off-time once she leaves Residents Forward. She says she plans to open her own consultancy business, focusing on “sustainability, resiliency and community building.”
“My first project is tied to public transportation and climate resiliency, so I’m going to be the program manager of a project on transit solutions,” Germain said. “It’s all of Long Island, and it’s going to be about increasing all forms of transit ridership and helping to educate Long Island employers, workers, and commuter students about public transportation options. It’s about researching areas where you know we can expand services and create more demand.”
“It’s a new category for me, but it’s tied to my mission of creating a more sustainable and resilient Long Island,” she adds. “So it’s near and dear to my heart, and I’m very excited to take this on.”
Germain also plans to join Residents Forward’s board of directors to stay involved.
“What I’ve told the board is that I’m gonna just helped them through this transition in the short term like just in the next month or two, and then I’m going to transition to a board member,” Germain said. “I would like to stay involved and continue the great work.”
The board is currently interviewing “some amazing candidates,” she says, and that her successor may be chosen as soon as mid-August. Germain also has some advice for whoever is picked.
“The most important feature of being the executive director in Residents Forward is to be a really good listener to the needs and wants of the community,” Germain said. “And to be open to collaboration with all the amazing organizations, municipalities and partners in Port Washington.”
She adds that she feels “grateful” for her term.
“I felt it was an honor to work for my community, and that’s why I worked so hard,” Germain said. “In terms of the leadership of Residents Forward and the board of directors, they are like my family and that’s why I will continue. I’ll be part of a wonderful board of directors that will keep plodding forward against real goals, create meaningful change and improve the quality of life for people in Port Washington.”