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Jane Leonard to lead Growth & Justice!

Date Published: 11/28/2017

Author: Dane Smith

Dear Supporters of Growth & Justice

We have some great news!

Jane Leonard, a widely respected Minnesota policy expert with more than three decades experience in philanthropy and community development, has been selected by our Board of Directors to succeed Dane Smith as president, beginning Jan. 1.  As announced several months ago, after more than 10 years leading the organization, Smith will move to a new role as adviser and Senior Policy Fellow.
“Since my first steps into the community and economic development fields some 30 years ago,’’ Leonard says, “I’ve sought ways to harness the strong pull of market forces and the civic underpinnings of government and democracy, to build a more equitable, and ultimately more successful, society.’’

“Growth & Justice embodies this creative tension,’’ Leonard adds. “It works on both the small pieces and the big picture to ultimately help all Minnesota –– people, businesses, and places –– to thrive. I am thrilled to be leading this effort, and working with so many partnering groups around this great state.’’

As Minnesotans interested in public policy well know, Growth & Justice is a progressive center for policy research and advocacy that focuses on building a more equitable and inclusive economy for our state.  Founded in 2002, we have produced scores of reports, policy papers and commentary showing how both business growth and social justice can be served through smart investments in education, physical infrastructure, health care and the environment.  We often work in coalition with many other groups in the public, private and non-profit sector.  (Here is a link to a list of achievements and impact by Growth & Justice over the last decade.)

Jane Leonard is perfectly suited and prepared to continue this work and to build even more collaborative momentum for practical policies that improve the lives of ALL our people.

Since 2014, Leonard has served as the Broadband Grants Administrator for the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.  And she has been instrumental throughout her career in helping communities and businesses throughout the state -- with particular expertise in Greater Minnesota -- to realize their potential through public and private investment in human capital, technology, and physical infrastructure.

These are among the many highlights of her career, in chronological order:

• Equipped with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mass communications and journalism from the University of Minnesota, Leonard worked as a journalist and researcher in the early 1980s for the Norman County Index (newspaper in rural northwestern Minnesota), for the Metropolitan Council, and for major agribusiness cooperatives.

• From 1984 to 1998, Leonard held a wide variety of leadership positions in community development for the State of Minnesota (she has served under DFL, Republican, and Independence Party governors).  These roles included stints as Community Development Director for the MN Office of Technology, Community Development Manager for the Department of Administration, and Program Coordinator for the Department of Trade & Economic Development and the State Planning Agency. From 1998 to 2007, Leonard served with and led a variety of non-profit enterprises focused on technology and community development, including the Minnesota Regional Network, Community Technology Advisers, and MN Rural Partners Inc. During that time, then-Governor Jesse Ventura appointed Leonard to serve as a public member of the Minnesota Board of Teaching, 2000 to 2004.

• From 2007 to 2009, Leonard served as the Executive Director of the Minnesota Statehood Sesquicentennial Commission, where she was responsible for raising some $4.5 million and overseeing a staff of 14 to organize and implement major statewide commemorations, community events, and community capacity-building grantmaking, and to lead reflection and planning for Minnesota’s future throughout the 2008 Sesquicentennial.

• From 2009 to 2014, she served in succession as Strategic Collaboration Manager for the Minneapolis Youth Coordinating Board, senior manager for the Bush Foundation, and as the principal in her own consulting firm.  Her clients included the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute, the Bush Foundation, the Otto Bremer Trust and the Regional Sustainable Development Partnership at the University of Minnesota.

• Leonard currently also serves as a community faculty member at Metropolitan State University, where she has been named three years in a row to the President’ Circle of Engagement, a special distinction for faculty who demonstrate exemplary leadership in social transformation and community engagement with their students, further strengthening Metro State as a beacon for educational, economic, and racial equity.  Among other awards, Leonard has received: the 1987 Governor’s Award for Outstanding Work in Community Development; the 2004 U.S. Small Business Administration Advocate of the Year Champion Award (for Minnesota and the Midwest region); the University of Minnesota Alumni of Notable Achievement (in 2006); two Distinguished Service awards from the Community Development Society, in 1997 & 2013, (where she is a past-president and current co-chair of the CDS Scholarship Committee), and a 2017 Achievement Award from the Minnesota Department of Employment & Economic Development.

• Jane and her spouse, Lori Lippert, have been active in LGBTQ community advocacy efforts for a generation.  Jane served as co-moderator of Spirit of the Lakes United Church of Christ in Minneapolis in its early years as the first LGBTQ church to join a mainstream denomination. Most recently, Jane and Lori were thrilled to be legally married in Minnesota, after 32 years in partnership.

• Jane and Lori live in the St. Anthony Park neighborhood of St. Paul, where Jane also serves on the board of the St. Anthony Park Community Foundation. In addition, Jane helps maintain her family farm in Isle Harbor Township, near the southern shore of Mille Lacs Lake.

“Jane enjoys a sterling reputation in Minnesota public policy circles for solid work, and for her integrity and professionalism,’’ Smith said.  “She’s a prodigious worker, prolific writer, and a team player.  And she’ll bring to Growth & Justice both a hard-headed business sense and progressive passion for more equitable outcomes in our economy and our communities.  I look forward to working with Jane long into the future.’’
Growth & Justice Board Chair Kim Lowe notes that Leonard was selected from an impressive group of candidates on the basis of her experience and proven record of public policy shaping in Minnesota.  “Jane brings an immense body of work to the leadership of Growth & Justice. I am excited about the depth of knowledge and experience she will bring to the organization as we consider the next 5 to 10 years of our work.”

Below is contact information for Dane Smith and Jane Leonard.  We hope you can provide support through our transition period, and as always we welcome your constructive advice and good counsel.

Dane Smith                                                                                                          Jane Leonard
President, Growth & Justice                                                                      President-Select, Growth & Justice
651-917-6037 - office                                                                                   651-303-5263-mobile
651-675-6360- mobile                                                                                  minntwin@comcast.net

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