Our experiences make us who we are; they inform our beliefs, define our values, and motivate our decisions. This is my story. I’ve been as a low-wealth worker, an incarcerated person, and a business-owner ravaged by the recession. I am a product of public schools, an addict 40 years into recovery, and a public servant.
I grew up with three siblings in a working-class Brooklyn Park home. My father, a Teamster, spent his days operating a warehouse forklift. My mother worked part-time for a company that made toilet paper wraps for American soldiers stationed in Vietnam. For additional income, my father would plow snow every winter, and all of us kids had paper routes. We relied on each paycheck.
As a teenager, I made some bad decisions. I started drinking and taking drugs, and eventually needed money to support my cocaine habit. In 1976, I was arrested and convicted of burglary—an incident that allowed me to repurpose my life. After serving seven months, I was released to a drug treatment program at Hennepin County Medical Center. I’ve been sober for 40 years. In 1982, wanting to vote again, I applied for and received a full pardon from the State of Minnesota.
I am privileged. I live as if I never committed an offense. It’s systemically unfair. Many of my peers will not be given the same opportunity the system gave me—a straight, white man.
- University of Minnesota: With my second chance, I went back to school. I graduated from the University of Minnesota with a Masters Degree in Architecture at age 39—I am repaying my student loans to this day.
- Student Advocacy: After graduating, I took my first step into organizing and advocacy with the American Institute of Architecture Students. In 1996, I was elected National President & CEO of the organization by my peers. I advocated on behalf of 35,000 architecture student in the U.S. and Canada and learned the value of grassroots organizing.
- Practicing Architecture: After the end of my tenure with AIAS, I started my career in architecture. I worked on major projects around the Twin Cities, including the 2010 MSP Airport Expansion, the Minneapolis Emergency Communications Center expansion, and the Hennepin Parks Headquarters.
- Neighborhood Organizer: After graduation, I moved to the Northside and got involved in my community. I worked with the Northside Community Reinvestment Coalition to save our neighbors' homes—the victims of subprime mortgages, we connected them with assistance if they fell behind on monthly payments.
- Political Organizer: My first experience in electoral politics began when I volunteered for the late Senator Paul Wellstone. I continued on, volunteering for local progressive leaders like then State Representative Keith Ellison.
- Bush Fellowship: In 2012, I was awarded a Bush Fellowship to study intersection between environment, transportation, and housing.
- State Representative: In 2012, my neighbors in District 59B—includes the Northside, Bryn Mawr, Elliot Park, and Downtown Minneapolis—elected me to represent them at the State Capitol. See my accomplishments.