Opinion: To change tomorrow’s outcomes, we need change today!

Angela Conley, candidate for Hennepin County Commissioner (Photo courtesy of VoteConley.com)

In his 27 years as the Hennepin County Commissioner for District 4, Peter McLaughlin has for the first time failed to receive the DFL endorsement. Could this mean it might finally be time, after more than two and a half decades, for someone else to serve in this major position of influence and power?

It is not my intent to characterize McLaughlin as a bad guy. McLaughlin, in fact, has accomplished much in his 27 years as commissioner. But, does that mean I think he should hold another four-year term as Hennepin County Commissioner?

Personally, I find the notion of a system that rewards accomplished politicians with near-lifetime jobs to be a rather undesirable practice. McLaughlin, you may recall, served three terms in the Minnesota State legislature prior to becoming a commissioner. Oh, and then there was the time he – while serving as Hennepin County Commissioner – ran, though unsuccessfully, for Minneapolis Mayor against R.T. Rybak.

Clearly, McLaughlin is a committed lifer when it comes to community service.

That being said, I believe after 27 years, we cannot deny the need for progressive change. Change is a normal political function and given today’s political climate change has become a necessity of our times.

Newcomers like Angela Conley running for office may not have big purse strings or long-standing connections. They bring a different type of capital – a strong, passionate and fresh perspective that addresses issues directly facing their communities. A perspective infused with new ideas, new voices and new ways of tackling issues pertaining to the environment, safety, affordable housing, social justice, transportation, education, equity, economy and job growth.

Change is the catalyst that accelerates transition bringing forth a fresh perspective. Conley has the passion, capacity as well as the tools in her toolbox to bring forth long-awaited change.

As well, I think it’s about time the elected commissioner both physically and ideologically reflect the 4th District’s changing demographics brought on by the new growth in generational, gender, race, ethnic and religious diversity.

Now is not the time to continue down the path well traveled. It’s time to change priorities. It’s time to design new policies that will shape needed reforms.

Speaking of reforms, if today Hennepin County commissioners had term limits, it could prevent commissioners from being reelected past their time. Voters would no longer have to choose between the commissioner that represents the past or the one that can impact change for the present and for our children’s/grandchildren’s future.

Think about it. Commissioners could actually make necessary decisions without fear of retribution at the polls. Reform can be good!

Should you choose change over longevity as I have, there is no need to feel badly about McLaughlin. If his history of professional public service is any indication of his future, he will, without a doubt, find new ways to contribute to our community.

Tomorrow’s future belongs to those who prepare for it today. Change!


Roxanne Givens is a sixth-generation African American Minnesotan, philanthropist, a founder and funder of the Archie Givens Collection of African American Literature at the University of Minnesota, and a former developer of affordable housing in both Hennepin and Ramsey Counties.