Kristen Maser Michaels’ dedication shines through in her work as executive director of the Congress of Neighboring Communities (CONNECT) and co-founder and director of For Good PGH. In 2018, she was one of 40 urban “change-makers” honored at the Next City Vanguard Conference in New Orleans. Kristen — who just announced she’s transitioning out of her role of executive director at CONNECT later this year to focus on expanding the work of For Good PGH — lives in Edgewood with her husband Gregg, daughters Lucy and Ramona, and her rescue dogs Captain Jack and Butters.

What upcoming events are you excited to attend?

This week at CONNECT we are hosting our monthly Executive Committee meeting where our members from the City of Pittsburgh and 42 surrounding municipalities come together to share updates and talk about policy priorities. It’s always great energy and I love catching up with everyone and hearing about what is going on in their communities.

For Good PGH is working with an incredible group of women from the Woodland Hills School District community to plan a night of pampering and empowerment for female students and I am so excited to see the students enjoy their night!

Socially, I’m just back in town from New Orleans and attempting to lay low until my good friend’s wedding next weekend at the Energy Innovation Center.

Best part of your job?

I get to spend my days helping dedicated elected and appointed local government officials to better serve their residents through collaboration with their neighbors. I am continuously surrounded by people who really care about their communities and work to make them thrive. It’s inspiring to say the least.

What are some of your goals for CONNECT?

We’ve been working really hard over the last two years to help local governments coordinate their response to the opioid epidemic. It’s been difficult work, but thanks to the partnership of local organizations that have both true subject area expertise and a desire to collaborate, we’ve made some real progress and I am hopeful that the work can be a small part of a larger solution to this crisis. We have goals in many other issue areas as well: stormwater overflow, transit-oriented development and infrastructure repair coordination, to name a few.

Kristen celebrating the opening of The Hollander Project with her For Good PGH partner Gisele Fetterman and the entrepreneurs who are running businesses out of the building.

Do you have particular issues that you rally around?

Equity. This city will never thrive if everyone isn’t at the table. We have so, so far to go. I am also passionate about LGBTQ rights, and am a vocal (sometimes annoying) proponent of animal adoption. I’m not sure where I’d be without my motley crew of adopted pets.

What is your long-term mission for For Good PGH?

My partner Gisele Fetterman and I want For Good to be the engine that pumps out a multitude of initiatives that inspire. We began For Good with a relatively broad mission statement, so we would have the flexibility to be creative in our efforts and to launch projects that felt right to us. We started with Hello Hijab, which to our surprise had its own viral moment. Next, we partnered with a photographer and a local nonprofit to provide family portraits of some members of our region’s undocumented population and then got to work on The Hollander Project — which is now serving female entrepreneurs throughout the Mon Valley. We may narrow our mission at some point … or not.

Favorite Pittsburgh brewery?

Brew Gentlemen, hands-down. Best beer, plus, I can bring my kids and dogs if I feel up for the challenge.

What book is on your nightstand or in your e-reader right now?

A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership” by James Comey, though I  have to admit that this is not a typical read for me. Usually it would be an “available now” novel recommended by the Carnegie Library.

Who is the last person you texted (and what was it about)?

Gisele — figuring out which of us can meet our roofer at the Hollander.

Where do you always take out-of-town visitors?

Frick Park, Nancy’s East End Diner, Studebaker Metals and Maser Galleries so they can see where I spent my childhood hanging out in between paintings.

Kristen with her family — Gregg Michaels, Lucy, Ramona and Captain Jack — at Laurel Hill State Park.

Last photo you took on your phone?

We did a photo shoot at the Hollander yesterday for our entrepreneurs and my phone is full of photos and videos of the ladies rocking it. They were stunning.

Favorite place you’ve traveled to in the last year and why?

Los Poblanos Inn & Organic Farm in Albuquerque, NM. My amazing and generous friend arranged a weekend reunion there and we spent two days swimming, eating, drinking and laughing. It was really special.

It’s time to unwind. Where do you head?

We load up the family and pets and head to the Laurel Highlands. My mom’s side of the family is from Somerset, so I’ve always spent a lot of time there and the mountains feel like home. There isn’t anything better than having my family and friends around a fire pit.

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