Let’s dive into the issues that Debbie cares about. As the District 5 Commissioner, Debbie represents Bloomington, Eden Prairie, Richfield and a part of SW Minneapolis after re-districting on the Hennepin County Board. She lives in Richfield, where she raised her son and was the mayor for 10 years. A methodical thinker, Debbie enjoyed a successful career as an engineer in the environmental and sustainability fields. She earned her engineering degree from the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities and completed additional graduate studies for environmental sustainability at the University of Minnesota and Harvard. In her business career, Debbie has worked for a number of companies such as Medtronic, Montgomery Watson, and Weyerhauser. She currently owns a small business and is involved in several startups.
Debbie was elected to her first term as a Hennepin County Commissioner in November 2016 and she won a second term in 2020; she is currently in the fourth and final year of that term. She was first elected Mayor of Richfield in 2006, where her neighbors re-elected her twice more in 2010 and 2014.
Her colleagues describe her as a problem solver and a regional thinker with big vision. She is tough and decisive, and also caring and collaborative. She listens to all sides of issues, understands complexity and is willing to look for common ground and ways to move challenging issues forward.
Debbie is no stranger to adversity. She was widowed when her son was very young, and she worked hard to raise him as a single parent. She credits terrific schools and a wonderful community in which to raise a family. After marrying her husband Tor just a few years ago, she is now the proud mother to two sons and a daughter. She is a grandmother of four.
Over three years on since the onset of the COVID-19 Pandemic, we are forever changed. We’ve lost loved ones, jobs, and many of our local businesses. As Vice Chair to the board and Chair of the Budget Committee, Debbie guided $245.9 million of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) dollars towards uninterrupted delivery of essential human services throughout the pandemic, achieved historic investment in affordable housing and climate action, and elevated innovative new programming borne out of pandemic response and recovery.
Local government had to pivot quickly to identifying innovations to support our most vulnerable community members: BIPOC, low-income residents, seniors, and disability communities. Some of these important issues supported by Debbie and her colleagues included:
- Educating the public on resources available to them
- Ensuring everyone can remain in a safe household through increased rental supports
- Connecting local businesses with grants and loans to help keep their doors open
- Equipping all county buildings to accommodate public health best practices
Debbie’s goal is to ensure that responsive long-term planning for the transportation, economic development, environmental sustainability, public health issues are provided in the most efficient and fiscally responsible way. The County has a critical role in the growth of the region, and District 5 has a variety of unique strengths to build upon and challenges to be transformed into opportunities.
Transportation & Infrastructure
Our roads and bridges are aging. Well-maintained transportation corridors are key to the economic success of Hennepin County and the entire metro area. Many of the roads and bridges we use were not designed to support the current traffic levels. Delaying maintenance leads to costly vehicle repairs and higher taxes. These issues are top of mind for Debbie.
As your Hennepin County Commissioner, Debbie will continue to advocate for long-term sustainable funding to fix, repair and reconstruct roads, bridges and underpasses.
As a member of the Metropolitan Council’s Transportation Advisory Board (TAB) which manages hundreds of millions of federal and state dollars, Debbie’s leadership has been instrumental in bringing home large investments in transit and infrastructure to District 5. Bloomington, Richfield and Minneapolis residents now benefit from both the Metro Orange Line BRT, the D-Line, and Eden Prairie and the entire metro area will soon see Southwest LRT come to fruition. The 77th Street underpass in Richfield now offers convenience to residents, and I-494 and Nicollet are seeing substantial investments through 2027 in large part due to Debbie’s leadership and advocacy.
Promoting Economic Development
Our population is growing, and we need to keep up. The County can provide small and local business loans, customized job training, and other options based on the specialized needs of industries in the area. Debbie is constantly striving to partner with local schools and organizations to make sure our students and workers are ready for our changing economy.
We need to ensure our workforce is learning the skills that our businesses require.
Debbie is a strong advocate for local businesses and entrepreneurs, ensuring that the county is doing everything possible to support sustained, small business creation and enhanced regional economic growth. She sits on the greater Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area Foreign Trade Zone board helping applicable businesses save millions of dollars each year, making them more profitable. Debbie’s focus on theses issues pertaining to small business creation and workforce development will mean a stronger and more competitive regional economy.
Climate Action and the Environment
Debbie is extremely passionate around environmental issues. Her background as an environmental engineer was central in helping Hennepin create its first ever Climate Action Plan, passed in 2021. As the board representative of the regional Partnership on Waste and Energy (PWE), Debbie has consistently fought for enhanced partnership and resources to move our waste system closer to the state’s and county’s zero-waste goals, and to support greater public health outcomes for environmental justice communities on the front lines of pollution and climate change. The severity of the climate crisis requires all hands on deck at this very moment, and making sure we have thoughtful, trained, and passionate experts helping to steer our largest institutions and polices is a common sense choice.