How long have you been in public service?
I was elected to the Ramsey County Board of Commissioners in 2018, but my public service began at age 17 when I enlisted in the United States Navy. I spent seventeen years serving first in the Navy, and then as an officer in the Marines and Army-National Guard.
Why did you choose to be in public service?
County government is a huge part of people’s day to day lives, but it often goes ignored. I was thrust into the county services system two decades ago, when my son Hunter was diagnosed with severe autism and developmental delay. My experience of that system, as well as my work in the non-profit sector as an advocate for affordable housing, gave me insight into the deficiencies of our county systems and convinced me that we needed new leadership at this level to promote equitable outcomes.
What is your favorite thing about your city, county or area?
The neighborhoods of Saint Paul that I represent are among the most diverse areas in the state of Minnesota, with more than a hundred languages spoken in homes across the district. That diversity gives us huge advantages in a globalized 21st-century economy, and I am so excited to see what the people I represent will build and create.
What is your city or area most known for? What is unique, or special about it?
Ramsey County hosts the Minnesota State Capitol and many of our state’s most-loved attractions, including the Como Park Zoo, Gibb’s Farm, and the Minnesota State Fair. It includes the historic city of Saint Paul, one of the nation’s last great river cities and an early railroad hub, and an array of diverse and prosperous communities. Ramsey County is the state’s only fully-urbanized county, and that gives us a unique perspective as we look at the challenges facing our state in the 21st century.
How do people in your community feel a Second Train could benefit them? Or, How do you feel that your community could benefit from a Second Train?
The Second Train project would represent an enormous increase in the viability of rail transportation for getting around the state and the region. Saint Paul grew up around railroads, and we have the density of people and jobs to support a strong and integrated public transportation system. A huge number of flights from Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport every day are to Chicago and Milwaukee; if the Second Train project makes that trip more attractive by rail, it will have a huge impact in strengthening our downtown economy and helping us meet our climate goals.
Why are you interested in expanding passenger rail in Minnesota? Or, What is your long-term vision for passenger rail in Minnesota?
Passenger rail has a huge number of benefits for Minnesota communities. Unlike planes, which often land long distances outside of the economic cores of our communities, passenger rail travels right through the heart of downtown. In Ramsey County we have the beautiful and newly-renovated Union Depot in downtown Saint Paul, which is rapidly becoming a hub of our local public transportation system here with projects such as the METRO Green Line, Gold Line, and Rush Line. Passenger rail travel also causes significantly lower emissions than airline travel, and with the added benefit of passing through small, vibrant communities all along the route.