First Draft Nomination

Northern Trust Navigator Award, honoring an individual demonstrating leadership and collaboration for change

There are some minor errors here I’ll eventually get to, submitted by my buddy since
1973 Jeff Eagan.


Jim Godsil loves a challenge but urban farming was not on his youthful agenda. Growing up in hard scrabble South St. Louis, he worked his way through St. Louis University as a roofer while becoming Student President. After graduation, Godsil became a SCLC civil rights organizer whose car was burned by racists and a bodyguard for Martin Luther King, protecting him from rocks and bottles during Chicago riots.

After an MA in Urban Affairs Godsil came to UWM for his Political Science PhD in 1969, won NSF and Fulbright Fellowships(for Tunis Ph.D. research). Jim has never left Milwaukee and the City is far better for it.

Teaching at Alverno and MATAC did not pay the bills for his family and he returned
to his earlier trade as a roofer. Over thirty years, Godsil put on 4,000+ Milwaukee roofs building Community Roofing and Restoration Inc. into a “support corporation” mentoring self-managed artisanal shops restoring complex and dangerous historic home roof systems. After his three young children lost their mother to cancer, Jim nurtured them as a single parent while successfully growing the firm.

But Godsil kept giving back to Milwaukee. He became first President of ESHAC Inc.,
helping defeat a freeway and save the vital Riverwest neighborhood. Later, Godsil helped revive the county historical preservation movement and fought to protect the Veterans Home from dilapidation and destruction. He founded the multi-cultural Saint Patrick’s and St. Bridget’s Day All City Festival, which he frequently MC’s at the Club Timbuktu. He even roofed Habitat houses with Jimmy Carter. In his spare time, Godsil created a wiki website and an associated Facebook page, showcasing cutting edge Milwaukee community initiatives and issues. As Godsil attained age sixty with childrenlaunched, he gradually transferred roofing operations to his partner.

Following the shooting of a Riverwest community leader, Jim drove to 55 th and
Silver Spring to volunteer at Growing Power, the pioneering urban farmstead in the heart of Milwaukee’s food desert. For years, Jim shoveled compost, raised worms, and learned the secrets of aquaponics – a cutting edge sustainable farming system intensively raising tasty fish and using their effluent to fertilize organic vegetables which conserve and purify the water for Serving on the GP Board, Jim promoted Will Allen nationally as the leader of urban agriculture movement, while supporting local ventures like Walnut Way. Taking significant financial risk, Godsil invested roofing profits and sweat equity to renovate a century old abandoned Bay View railroad factory in 2008. There Jim and his partner launched Sweet Water Organics (SWO), to provide proof of concept for aquaponics while harvesting fresh fish and organic vegetables and greens for Milwaukee consumers and restaurants. After a brief visit Michael Pollan said: “SWO is a powerful model for urban agriculture: diversified, holistic, and integrating plants and animals in an ingenious system”. Thousands of visitors and tourists flock to this green miracle in Milwaukee’s industrial slums as well as media like NBC News, Wall Street Journal, and New York Times.

But Godsil’s vision is greater: to build in Milwaukee and around the world a
sophisticated global agricultural movement for good food grown with a light impact on the environment in nontraditional settings. Urban agriculture and aquaponics allow city dwellers to raise nutritious food and parched nations to grow protein while minimizing water and energy consumption. Jim Godsil’s real miracle was creation of the Sweet Water Foundation (SWF).

The Foundation has organized networks of aquaponics experts from Australia to Afghanistan,sharing best practices, constructing a global TV network, reaching out to water scarce nations. To serve scholars, activists, and students who tour and study Sweet Water, SWF created grassroots networks of more than thirty schools, colleges, churches, and NGO’s in Milwaukee and Chicago. Now the Foundation builds miniature aquaponics operating systems to educate students and provide therapy for returned vets. Partnering with UWM Fresh Water School and Chicago State University, scientists use Sweet Water as a test bed to research new resilient fish species and aquaponics technologies.

The State Department sponsored Godsil to travel India for a month last year to train
drought stricken farmers and build partnerships with Indian universities. Professors and undergraduates from Milwaukee and Madison spent last summer working in India following up Jim’s pioneering work, doing feasibility studies with Indian schools. IBM awarded a $400,000 grant to the City of Milwaukee to optimize Sweet Water’s partnership and share its lessons with its Global Cities Initiative. Macarthur Foundation provided another $150,000 for instruction and competency certification for youth and adults in urban agriculture. As Jim told the NY Times, “Aquaponics inspires pragmatic utopian visions that keep getting validated by the facts.”

Now Jim Godsil’s classroom is the world while his roots remain firmly planted in Milwaukee, thinking globally while organizing locally.

Favorite Pics Sent to Adam Carr

These in my gmail account under Pics for Carr.

Announcement of Awards

 16 Finalists Announced


14th Annual Awards Highlight Innovative and High-Impact Projects in Central City

Sponsored by U.S. Bank, in partnership with LISC Milwaukee, the MANDIs recognize individuals, organizations, and corporations who are strengthening Milwaukee’s central city neighborhoods.

“You will not find more entrepreneurial people than the people who are leading the efforts to rebuild our central city neighborhoods. The Milwaukee Awards for Neighborhood Development Innovation provide an opportunity for us to celebrate and learn from our city’s greatest talent,” Leo Ries, Executive Director, LISC Milwaukee.

Finalists are selected by an independent, cross-sector volunteer committee. The committee reviews nominations and selects three finalists in each of the five categories. Winners will be announced at a gala event on Thursday, March 14th, 5:30pm, at the Pfister Hotel.

Award Finalists Include:

Brewers Community Foundation Public Space Award honors the use of public space that contributes to the overall well-being of the community.

• Brown Street Academy

• Washington Park

• Burnham and 29th Park

BMO Harris Cornerstone Award honors a long-standing commitment to a neighborhood and demonstrated effectiveness over time.

• ACTS Housing

• Progressive Community Health Services

• La Causa

Northern Trust Navigator Award honors an individual demonstrating leadership and collaboration for change.

• Charlotte John-Gomez

• James Godsil.

• Welford Sanders

PNC Bank Trail Blazer honors an innovative approach to a problem that is producing demonstrative results.

• Select Milwaukee’s Financial Literacy Through Home-Ownership Program

• Milwaukee Rising

• Our Next Generation Outbound Learning Program

State Farm Building Blocks Award honors a real estate project that contributes significantly to the enhancement of the community.

• Clock Shadow Building

• Mitchell Street Market Lofts

• National Avenue Lofts

• Urban Ecology Center, Menomonee Valley

Vison Award honors an outstanding investment in Milwaukee’s Central City (selected by LISC’s Advisory Board)

• Manpower

Last edited by Godsil.   Page last modified on January 11, 2013

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