Sandy Vargas: Irene will be a fresh new thinker and policy maker

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As a former Hennepin County Administrator, I am supporting Irene Fernando to become Hennepin County commissioner in District 2. My past executive experience in this role at Hennepin County for almost 10 years, gives me a clear view of what it takes to be an effective commissioner to oversee this vast array of important public functions.

Most people don’t know how deep and broad county government is and how it affects our lives. It is important to say that Hennepin County is a very powerful government agency that manages over 2.4 billion public dollars in activities that include human services from food stamps to child protection and parental termination; health, mental health and Hennepin Health; all civil and criminal justice activities after arrest including county attorney, public defender, sheriff and the courts; transportation - roads and bridges, environmental services, libraries and many other important functions which create a high quality of life in this region. There are over 8000 employees (not including Hennepin Health) working hard to make life better.

Irene will be a fresh new thinker and policy maker for the County. She brings a new perspective as a person of color, and as a person connected to and from the community in addition to her broad professional and managerial business experience. She has the educational background, the cultural experience and a strategic orientation with which to view and move the status quo. As a young leader who has been preparing for this elected position Irene can spark the need to increase service innovation, equity and inclusion especially at the senior leadership level and a deeper connection to community. She has the commitment and follow-through to make this happen. She cares about people and she has the skills and abilities to lead change.

When elected Irene will represent a unique district that has a diverse constituency in political orientation, race and ethnicity and income to name a few descriptors. As part of District 2, north Minneapolis also has a legacy of concentrated and generational poverty which has its roots in structural racism. Irene has the energy and insight to understand these issues deeply and focus on solutions with people who have not had much say in how policies might be changed and improved. Her tenure will be the opportunity to have community voices heard and move toward more robust results toward equity for families, children and individuals who find themselves in a system that is reactive instead of preventative and proactive. Irene will use her common sense and her compassion to incorporate these voices into her work at the county. She will put people first.

Most importantly Ms. Fernando can work with the other commissioners to co-create a bolder more inclusive vision and better results for county residents. Because of her lived experience from an immigrant family, she has learned the art of compromise and a willingness to create win-win solutions. Her commitment to public service and to tackle intractable issues is unstoppable.

Please join me in voting for Ms. Irene Fernando as the next Hennepin County Commissioner for District 2.

Sandy Vargas

Akhilesh Menawat