Neighborhood & Community Relations

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Minneapolis, MN 55401
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Community Engagement

Task Force structure and participants

In June 2007 participants were named to the Community Engagement Task Force. The Minneapolis City Council approved a charge and structure to guide the creation of the task force.

Click on participant name to see a brief bio.

6 Neighborhood Organizations:
Chris Morris

Elena Gaarder

Jeffrey Strand

John Bernstein

Matt Perry
( Chair)
Shirley Yeoman
2 Block Clubs:
Anne McCandless

Diann Anders
4 Ethnic/Cultural Organizations:
Jessie Saavedra

Justin Huenemann - discontinued participation in the group due to personal circumstances.
Mohamed Ali
Long Yang
2 Issue-focused Organizations:
Don Fraser

Russ Adams
2 Business Associations:
Diana Hawkins

Joyce Wisdom
2 Community Development Corporations:
David Rubedor

Mary Keefe
1 Community Engagement Innovator:
Repa Mekha
1 Civic Participation Advocate:
Jeremy Iggers
2 At-large residents:
Kathleen Anderson

Mark Fox
3 Council Members:
Council Member Gordon
Council Member Hofstede
Council Member Lilligren (co-chair)
1 Mayor/ or representative
Mayor R.T. Rybak
Cara Letofsky
3-5 City of Minneapolis Staff Resources ( may vary)
Jennifer (Amundson) Lastoka – Community Engagement
Barb Lickness

Erik Hansen - CPED
Greg Simbeck

Luther Krueger
1 Task Force Support
Alicia Scott – Communications

Staff Resources: City department representatives whose work involve the community (selection may vary depending on topic of a particular meeting)

Participant Bios

Russ Adams

Russ Adams has been the Director of the Alliance for Metropolitan Stability since 1995.  Adams has worked as a nonprofit advocate and community organizer for over 22 years building community coalitions in support of economic and racial justice, sustainable & equitable development, renewable energy practices, better land-use and urban growth policies, and challenged public officials to address environmental justice concerns. The Alliance and its partner groups have secured millions of dollars in public investments for transit, affordable housing, "digital inclusion," and brownfield clean-up. 

Adams also served as the field director for the successful Keith Ellison for U.S. Congress campaign. He has also previously served with All Parks Alliance for Change, worked as a Housing Specialist for the Harrison Neighborhood Association, and served as a volunteer with the Sierra Club Northstar Chapter, Environmental Justice Advocates of Minnesota, Powderhorn Park Neighborhood Association, Sustainable Resources Center, and the Community Solutions Fund.

Adams’ work with the Alliance on advanced innovative strategies like Inclusionary Housing measures and Community Benefits Agreements received the National Neighborhood Coalition "Communities Leading the Way" award in 2000.

Mohamed Ali

Mohamed Issa Ali was born and raised in Mogadishu, Somalia. He immigrated to the United States in 1993 after the Somali civil war, lived in New York, Ohio and Tennessee before moving to Minnesota in 1997.

Issa Ali is actively involved in the Somali community and is a member of, or serves on the boards of the West Bank Community Coalition, the Confederation of Somali Communities in Minnesota, the Somali Intellectual League and the Somali-American Political Engagement Committee. He has also served on the board of the West Bank Community Development Corporation and serves as a consultant to the Somali Mai Community of Minnesota and the Somali American Media Association.

Issa Ali currently is an Employment Counselor with EMERGE WORKFORCE, an affiliate of Pillsbury United Communities a non-profit community based organization, at its North Minneapolis office Job Bank. He is also host/writer and editor for Somali American Media Association Television (SAMA TV).

Issa Ali has nine children and two grandchildren.

Diann Anders

Diann Anders is a proponent of building community and has been working at it for most of the 37 years she has been a resident of Minneapolis. Anders currently works on this goal by serving on the Seward Neighborhood Group board. As a board member, she actively works on community policing, block club organizing and developing sustainability indicators for Seward.

Anders edited the Seward Profile for more than five years. She is a strong believer in strong citizen engagement as a way of nurturing communities and feeling empowered to take actions. She has also worked with the Minneapolis Public Schools in trying to engage the neighborhoods.

Kathleen Anderson

Since returning to Minneapolis 25 years ago, Kathleen Anderson has been increasingly interested in the city, its government and the immediate community she lives in. She follows City policies for growth and prosperity closely and monitors its programs for maintaining and enhancing the quality of life for our citizens. 

A resident of a historically designated building, the North Star Blanket Factory, Anderson serves on the Minneapolis Heritage Preservation Commission, the St. Anthony Falls Heritage Board and other community organizations. She is also a member of the Lawyers Board of Professional Responsibility.

John Bernstein

John Bernstein is an equity research analyst for Sit Investment Associates. He has lived in and around Minneapolis for more than 20 years. Since moving back into Minneapolis eight years ago, he has been actively involved in the community for most of that time. He served on the Lowry Hill Residents, Inc. for the past six years, including four as the NRP Chair and two as the organization's Vice President. John also serves on the Capital Long-Range Improvement Committee (CLIC) and is a board member of WESAC Baseball, Inc.

John enjoys coaching youth baseball and soccer, and teaching downhill skiing during the winter months.  He lives in the Lowry Hill Neighborhood with his wife and four children.

Mark Fox

A lifelong resident of Minneapolis, Mark Fox grew up in the Kenny neighborhood and is currently a resident of Northeast Minneapolis. Fox started working in advertising design and was soon drawn into neighborhood activism.

Fox has served on the Audubon Neighborhood Association's board for 7 years, and is a two-term treasurer and president. Three years ago Fox helped found the Northeast Citizen Patrol, a volunteer group that offers walking patrols in nine Northeast neighborhoods. More than 100 walkers participate in these patrols.

Fox believes that his NECP experience has redefined his expectations of community engagement and wants to preserve community empowerment while expanding engagement beyond the limits of the current circle of activists to create a better balance between neighborhood and citywide interests.

Don Fraser

Donald M. Fraser was born in Minneapolis, educated in the Minneapolis Public Schools including University High School and went on to receive his BA in 1944 and LLB in 1948 from the University of Minnesota .

After serving in the Pacific on active duty with the US Naval Reserve from July 1942 through June 1946, he served in the Minnesota Senate (1954-1962) and in the U.S. House of Representatives (1963-1978). He returned to Minneapolis and served as Mayor of Minneapolis from 1980 through 1993.

While in Congress, Fraser successfully sponsored a provision in Washington D.C. charter calling for elected advisory neighborhood councils and required financial support for the councils. Fraser also successfully sponsored a measure calling for emphasis on building local democratic institutions in countries receiving U.S. foreign assistance.

Fraser is currently active in the community. He helped organize the SouthEast Minneapolis Council on Learning, served as co-chair of the Board of Ready4K, and is now the convener of a committee on the achievement gap authorized by the Minnesota DFL Education Foundation in January 2007.

Elena Gaarder

Elena has eleven years of experience working in the community development field, most recently serving as the Executive Director of the Powderhorn Park Neighborhood Association. She recently accepted a Project Administrator position with the Council on Crime and Justice.

Elena brings to the task force a strong commitment to community-driven planning and policy development. She holds a B.S in planning from St. Cloud State University and lives in South Minneapolis with her son.

Diana Hawkins

Diana Hawkins has been in the cable industry since 1994. In her current position she is a Government Affairs Professional. Before coming to Comcast Cable, Hawkins was employed for 12 years with Time Warner Cable and served 10 years with Carlson Companies in various positions. Hawkins is best known for her work with the City of Minneapolis Code Four, lobbying for a new school in the Nellie Stone Johnson Community School and is the co-founder of the Hawthorne Huddle Organization.

Hawkins has also been recognized for her involvement in many community programs. She was responsible for implementing a Minneapolis National Association of Multi-Ethnicity in Communications chapter as well as being responsible for the Time-To-Read Literacy/Mentoring Program for Time Warner Cable. Hawkins serves on many organization boards representing both her community in which she lives and is employed.

Hawkins has a Bachelor of Science in Management, and a Certificate in Human Resource Management. She recently completed a dual-Master’s Degrees in Business Management and Project Management.

Jeremy Iggers

Jeremy Iggers recently left the Minneapolis Star Tribune after more than 22 years as a staff writer. Iggers is currently the executive director of the Twin Cities Media Alliance, a non-profit organization that brings together media professionals and engaged citizens to improve the quality, accountability and diversity of the local media, and to give citizens the tools they need to become more active participants in the emerging media environment.

Iggers has a PhD in philosophy from the University of Minnesota; his doctoral dissertation was published in revised form as "Good News, Bad News: Journalism Ethics and the Public Interest (Westview Press, 1998). He lives in CARAG with his wife, Carol Bouska, and two cats.

Mary Keefe

Mary Keefe is the Executive Director of Hope Community, Inc., a community development corporation with a history of 30 years in the Phillips Community. In addition to significant neighborhood revitalization, Hope is known for extensive community engagement that involves hundreds in leadership and learning opportunities each year. Over 1400 diverse adults and youth have been involved in community dialogues through Hopes Community Listening strategies.

Keefe began her work at Hope in 1994 after over 20 years of related experience. She directed two broad-based, multi-cultural community organizations in the Twin Cities and New York City. She was a contributing editor writing for a New York City magazine about low-income issues. She also coordinated the strategic planning phase for a multi-sector St. Paul Children’s Initiative.

Anne McCandless

Anne McCandless is a retired Minneapolis police sergeant and an active resident of the Jordan neighborhood of Minneapolis. McCandless serves on the Jordan Area Housing Committee and is a block leader. McCandless works hard to keep the neighborhood involved and fights to prevent blight and crime in the neighborhood.

McCandless enjoys gardening and is a Hennepin County Master Gardener.

Repa Mekha

Repa Mekha is the Executive Director of Payne-Lake Community Partners (PLCP), a community development intermediary currently supporting development in South Minneapolis and East St. Paul, MN with a focus on building strategic connections between community engagement and community development approaches. Payne-Lake Community Partners also helps to discover and generate innovative ideas, initiatives, and institutions that arise from within neighborhoods and have the potential to reach significant scale. Before PLCP Repa served as Executive Director of Freeport West, a community-based social service and community building agency serving the Twin Cities area. Repa has also served as a local and national consultant and social entrepreneur on organizational change and development. He has lived in the Twin Cities since 1988.

Chris Morris

Christopher (Chris) Morris is a resident, former elected Board member and now Executive Director of the McKinley Community in North Minneapolis. A resident since 1990, Chris Morris arrived as a student at the University of Minnesota and has lived in seven different neighborhoods of Minneapolis.

Morris is married with two children, both of whom attend Minneapolis Public Schools and extensively use both the Minneapolis Public Library and Minneapolis Park & Recreation systems.

Matt Perry

Matt Perry has been actively involved building community in both the public and private sectors for most of his adult life – building private sector organizations in the technology start up area and in helping community and neighborhood groups solve challenges during their early stages of organizing in the public sector. He has successfully worked with several neighborhoods in south Minneapolis on projects that cross neighborhood boundaries and is an advocate for greater involvement of the private sector in developing the fabric of both commercial and residential neighborhoods.

Perry is the chair of the East Harriet Farmstead Neighborhood Association and a co-leader of a block club. He is also the president of Nicollet-East Harriet Business Association in Kingfield and East Harriet neighborhoods. He is active in a Great City Design Team, with the Walker Task Force (as co-chair), the Minneapolis Zoning Board of Adjustment (vice-chair) and is currently president and CEO of Twin Cities PC MD, Inc.

David Rubedor

David Rubedor is a resident of north Minneapolis, living in the Jordan neighborhood for the past six years. Before living in the Jordan neighborhood, he lived in the Powderhorn Park neighborhood for 10 years.

Rubedor currently works for Powderhorn Residents Group (PRG), Inc, a non-profit affordable housing developer where he has been the Executive Director since 2004. PRG currently has housing development projects underway in both north and south Minneapolis. Prior to PRG, he worked as the Executive Director of the Powderhorn Park Neighborhood Association from 1998 - 2004.

Rubedor also serves on the Juxtaposition Arts board of directors, a youth arts organization in north Minneapolis.

Jessie Saavedra

Jessie Saavedra has been a Phillips resident for over 40 years. He is active in the Latino community, a member of the Latino Advisory Committee to the Mayor and the City Council, board chair of La Familia Guidance Center, a volunteer for Holy Rosary Church and works for the Minnesota Department of Health.

Jeffrey Strand

Jeffrey L. Strand has been involved in neighborhood and community empowerment efforts in Minneapolis since joining the Shingle Creek Neighborhood Association board in 1992.  Strand served as neighborhood chair from 1997-2006 and remains a director. The neighborhood has seen major changes in the past 15 years, with such collaborative projects as the Humboldt Greenway, Shingle Creek Regional Pond, and Humboldt Industrial Park-Minneapolis Business Center. Shingle Creek completed NRP Phase I and received approval for its Phase II NRP Action Plan.  Over the years, the Shingle Creek neighborhood organization has been involved in Camden Community-wide and/or citywide planning efforts with other partners through the Camden Alliance of Neighborhoods, the Mississippi Corridor Neighborhoods Coalition, the Penn-Lowry Lyndale Implementation Council, and the Northside Neighborhood Alliance.

 Strand and his partner, Kim Wm. Jeppesen, share homes and interests in North Minneapolis and a farm in Southwest Minnesota.  Jeff Strand has served on the NRP Policy Board in 2001-2002 and 2004-2007 and on the Minneapolis Capital Long-Range Improvement Committee for 13 years.  He is currently the president of the community board for the CommonBond Shingle Creek Commons senior housing facility and a director for Minneapolis DFL Senate District 58.  Strand is hopeful that the adopted draft Community Engagement Task Force report will stimulate further discussion and action to fully fund the existing nationally-recognized NRP program, while providing for improvements to the City's process to encourage increased civic engagement and empowerment.

Joyce Wisdom

Joyce Wisdom is the current executive director of the Lake Street Council. She has been active in the community as a private business owner and in a professional capacity with neighborhood associations and community institutions.

Wisdom was formerly associate director of the Green Institute and has served as president of the Hiawatha-Lake Business Association and chair of the Empowerment Zone Strategic Planning and Lake Street Council Marketing committees. In her role as the executive director of the Lake Street Council, she engages, serves and represents the many diverse voices of the Lake Street business community and maintains open communication for the business community and with the many neighborhood associations that border Lake Street.

Long Yang

Long X. Yang was originally from Laos. He came to the United States in 1978 as a Hmong refugee. He first settled in Dallas, Texas, and then resettled in Greensboro, North Carolina, St. Paul, Minnesota, Pullman & Colfax, Washington, Milwaukee & Hilbert, Wisconsin. He then came to Minneapolis in early 2007 working for the Hmong American Mutual Assistance Association in north Minneapolis.

He has been a long time public services person. He is active in education and resettlement programs. He had been served and is now serving various positions such as board member, advisor, co-chairperson, and chairperson from youth to mainstream organizations.

Long X. Yang has been a life-long student of politics. He graduated with a Bachelor Degree from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities in 1990. He then went on to get his Masters Degree in Political Science from Mankato State University in 1994. He was accepted to the Ph. D. program in Political Science at Washington State University in Pullman, Washington. However, he transferred to and received his post graduate degree from Northern Illinois University in Dekalb, Illinois.

Shirley Yeoman

Shirley Yeoman is a transplanted Kansan who made South Minneapolis her home in 1975. Yeoman began actively working in the community by joining Standish-Ericsson Neighborhood Association in 1996, just as the NRP Full Plan work was getting underway and has been active in the community ever since.

Most of Yeoman’s professional and community work has been with non-profits, large and small. She has served on boards of Harriet Tubman Shelter and Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity. Yeoman has degree in education and has completed the coursework for an M. S. in Management.

Staff Resource Bios

Luther Krueger (Staff Resource)

Crime Prevention Specialist Luther Krueger has been with the Minneapolis Police Department since 1995. CPS Krueger is a member of the International Association of Crime Analysts, the Minnesota Crime Prevention Association, and the American Society for Public Administration.

Krueger has moderated the Virtual Block Club (VBC) for the 1st Precinct for twelve years. Through his crime prevention work with the MPD, Krueger received the Hennepin County Chiefs' Crime Prevention Practitioner of the Year for 1999. He was also awarded the MPD Chief's Award of Merit with his partner, Officer Craig Williams for their development of the "Virtual Block Club," an email crime alert system which includes community participation.

Krueger holds a B.A. in English and Theatre Arts from the University of Minnesota (1985) and a Master of Public and Nonprofit Administration degree from Metropolitan State University (2005), where he is also a community faculty member. Krueger writes a regular column for the Southwest Journal and book reviews for the Journal of Urban Affairs. Krueger is an avid solar chef and lives in south Minneapolis with his wife Jo and two cats.

Barb Lickness (Staff Resource)

Neighborhood Specialist Barb Lickness has been with the Neighborhood Revitalization Program since 1994. Barb works with neighborhood associations who represent the neighborhoods of North Loop, Downtown East and West, Elliot Park, Ventura Village, Phillips West, Midtown Phillips, Prospect Park, Powderhorn Park, Corcoran, Cooper, Howe, Hiawatha, Longfellow, Keewaydin, Minnehaha, Morris Park, Wenonah, East Harriet, Fulton and the Metropolitan Urban Indian Directors.

Barb works with neighborhoods to assist them with developing their NRP Neighborhood Action Plans and helps to provide resources for them as they implement the strategies in their approved plans. Barb provides technical support and training when requested.

Barb is an active volunteer in her neighborhood of Whittier. She lives with her husband Kevin, their 17 year old son Blake and her two cats in a turn of the century victorian they have spent the last 16 years renovating. Barb is an avid gardener and a passionate chef.

Greg Simbeck (Staff Resource)

Greg Simbeck works as a Project Coordinator for the Department of Regulatory Services. One of his principal responsibilities is to assist residents, the City Council and the Mayor’s Office on housing inspections and regulatory issues. Prior to his work in Regulatory Services, Simbeck served as a Council Aide to Council Members Paul Zerby and Diane Hofstede. He has also served as the Neighborhood Coordinator for Southeast Como neighborhood.


Last updated Apr 28, 2014



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