Issues and Accomplishments

This is a snapshot of the last few years of county work—if there is a specific issue you’d like to learn more about that you aren’t seeing here, please feel free to ask!

Chair of the Board
It has been my honor for the last four years (including 2022) to be elected unanimously by my peers to serve as Chair of the Hennepin County Board. This is a unique leadership role, in which I have:

  • Built consensus to advance issues of interest to the entire board
  • Stewarded the board’s allocation of federal relief funds
  • Represented the board in numerous rooms and negotiations
Guidance of Relief Dollars
Hennepin County received federal relief and recovery funds to support the community in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. Working with my colleagues I:

  • Supported massive rental assistance, housing support, and eviction prevention programs that kept residents in their homes, and helped residents without homes find stable housing
  • Transformed our region’s shelter system to respond to the pandemic
  • Provided relief to small businesses and entrepreneurs
  • Drove innovation across the housing spectrum to build successful new models of supportive housing
  • Magnified county investments in mental health, maternal health, gun violence prevention, and anti-hate initiatives

This is the tip of the iceberg – please let me know if you want more information or have specific questions.

Building a sustainable and resilient county in the face of climate change
  • With my guidance and advocacy, the county adopted its first ever Climate Action Plan on May 4, 2021. This plan provides a framework to direct the county’s work to cut greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the changing climate, reducing vulnerabilities and ensuring a more equitable and resilient Hennepin County.
  • We have created a new Climate and Resiliency Department, with staff dedicated to leading this work, and championing this thinking across the county.
  • We are committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions to “net zero” emissions by 2050, both in the county’s operations and geographically. This positions Hennepin County as a leader on addressing climate change in the upper Midwest.
  • In 2022 the county will write a zero-waste plan, to map our future with no waste to landfills or the garbage burner.
Laser focus on disparity reduction and anti-racism

Over the last decade, Hennepin County has recognized and intentionally woven disparity reduction through all categories of county work: human services, public works, healthcare, safety and justice, and workforce and economic development. While the pandemic has exacerbated disparities by race in our region, the county has built on its disparity reduction focus to build a more equitable region. 

  • Led by Cmsrs. Conley and Fernando, the board voted unanimously to declare racism a public health crisis in Hennepin County
  • All work considered at Hennepin County includes a racial equity impact analysis
  • Community engagement is an expanding department and area of expertise, to ensure that the organization builds its skills at listening, to partner with community on addressing community needs.
  • County engagement work emphasizes the voices of populations historically marginalized by the system – (racial and cultural, youth, LGTBQIA+).
Investing in transit and community connectivity
The built environment, particularly streets and transit infrastructure, are enormously important to building community and connectivity for people living, working and playing in Hennepin County.

  • I worked closely with the City of St. Louis Park to get a rebuild of Minnetonka Avenue between Lake Street and Highway 100 into the county’s capital improvement plan
  • Lyndale Avenue in Minneapolis, between Franklin Avenue and Lake Street, has been an area of focus for my office, with safety improvements coming to the 25th and 27th Streets intersections, a 4-to-3 lane conversion pilot in 2022, and a rebuild in the next five years

Hennepin County is an important regional investor in light rail transit (LRT) and bus rapid transit (BRT). Transit is key to our region’s growth, and is an investment in addressing climate change. Projects are built by the Metropolitan Council, with significant investment and as much oversight as possible from Hennepin County. Southwest LRT – adding sixteen stops onto the Green line – is about 50% completed. As chair of the board I was a key participant in negotiations to secure $1 billion in federal funds in support of that project.

Addressing the regional need for affordable housing
Affordable housing is fundamental to a thriving region.

  • I have been a particular champion for the Hotels-to-Homes initiative, which is a new form of supportive housing.
  • We are investing in new pilots to address the racial homeownership gap. Homeownership is a path to stability and intergenerational wealth.
  • Homeownership isn’t for everyone, so we continue to invest in low-income housing opportunities and supports to increase stability and decrease displacement.
  • In 2021 we piloted a Single Room Occupancy, or SRO, building in District 3, with great success. SROs combine private rooms with shared kitchens and communal spaces. Between that successful pilot, and the publication of a taskforce report on SRO housing, we have in place the groundwork for innovative options to expand SRO housing across the county.
  • In the first nine months of 2021 Hennepin County programming has helped 930 people transition from homelessness into permanent housing.

The county has developed ways to be first-in funders for projects that particularly serve Hennepin county clients.