Holly Jenkins has an MBA in Finance from the Carlson School of Management at the U of M. She worked for Piper Jaffray for many years before turning to the non-profit sector. She is the founder of Wilderness in the City advocating for the protection of Lebanon Hills Regional Park and natural areas across the 7-county metro region. Since 2013, she has participated in County Board, Met Council and Legislative hearings, and is determined to improve the status quo in Dakota County.
Dakota County is special because of the people who live here. They are what make our communities thrive. Decisions made at the local level of government have direct impact on our quality of life now and in the future, yet we know little about and have little influence when decisions are being made.
There is a fundamental disconnect between the general public and the decision makers on county issues. This disconnect happens because information is not readily available, meetings and agendas are off peoples radar, the county budget is not easily accessible for public review, and public input is often sought only after a decision has been made.
I intend to shine a spotlight on this invisible layer of government and make information readily available, have meetings video recorded for public review, and reach out to people for their input before the board votes on issues. People deserve to know, and have an opportunity to influence, how Dakota County is spending our money.
My vision is for wise and sustainable progress in Dakota County, not overbuilt and underfunded. I will accomplish this vision by including people in the decision making process instead of apart from them.
Including citizen voice and participation in the decision making of Dakota County
I am running because it’s time to begin a new era of transparency and accountability in this relatively invisible layer of government. On issues you care about—whether transportation or affordable housing, parks and natural resources, libraries, health and wellness—you will have a meaningful opportunity to participate in the decision making process, before any vote is made.
People have busy lives and don’t have time to dig for details, and they shouldn’t have to. Balanced and objective information will be readily available for public review so that you will have the opportunity to share your input on issues that matter most to you.
Understanding the needs of residents is important, and the best way to understand is by listening. Open forums for discussion between elected representatives and people will be part of business as usual.
Bringing the public back into the decision making process will ensure that public concerns and aspirations are consistently understood and considered.
By making information readily available, engaging in open discussions, and involving you in the process—I will be able to best represent your needs and values as a decision maker.
Going forward, I commit to the following actions:
- Host regular events such as “coffee with your commissioner” to hear what’s important to you
- Schedule town hall meetings to inform you of county issues
- Let the public know where they can find me; you won’t have to wonder who is your commissioner
- Work to improve the County website and make it easier for you to find information
- Provide real spending information to the public, not masking the numbers for marketing propaganda.
- Advocate to record board meetings which are currently held during the daytime, so you can watch the video feed at your convenience to hear what is said
- Provide you with an opportunity to weigh in before issues come up for vote
More than ever, as we enter into a new era of growth and sustainability, you deserve to have a voice in how Dakota County spends our tax dollars. It is, after all, our money…our future.
Together…we will make the place we call home, Dakota County, the best it can be.
If you share this vision, get involved! There are many ways to help including display a lawn sign, door knock, drop fliers, host a house party, make a contribution, and more! Please contact me if you would like to help or have other ideas.
May 6, 2016: Holly Jenkins speaking about why local government should be more visible (28 seconds)
April 3, 2015: Holly Jenkins speaking about transparency of process needed on Dakota County Board (24 seconds)
April 3, 2015: Holly Jenkins speaking about accountability on the Dakota County Board (48 seconds)
Government Transparency — openness, accountability, and honesty —is government’s obligation to share information with citizens. It is at the heart of how citizens hold their public officials accountable.
Did you know… Dakota County’s approved 2016 budget is over $400 million – an increase of more than $100 million in just the past four years, and represents and increase in spending per person. Do you know where is that money going? … or how current spending will impact future property taxes?
Decisions on spending – whether County, Met Council, State or Federal Funds — impact our current and future property taxes and quality of life. Therefore, options and consequences for spending need to be fully disclosed before decisions are made.
While there is value in some aspects of regional planning, I agree with many others who support reforming the structure of Met Council. As an independently elected and non-partisan body, such as in Denver and Portland, the result will be greater responsiveness and accountability to taxpayers.In addition to reforming the governance structure, Met Council’s policy criterion also needs to be revised. Our communities would be stronger with increased flexibility to allow people and local governments to make the best choices for their own communities.
My interest in county government grew from my passion to maintain a healthy state of natural resources in Dakota County. As with many of you, I strongly support preservation of our valuable remaining tracts of open space.Our “Forever Wild” park system has the potential to be the envy of all other counties. Instead of overbuilding and underfunding — we will do better. Instead of catching up to these other park systems, as is currently being proposed, we will leap ahead of them. After all, what will people and wildlife really need in 50 or 100 years — more stuff… or healthy woodlands, prairies, lakes and wetlands. What should our Legacy be?
A vital core service of county government is to continuously make sure we have safe roads, bridges and infrastructure. It will be critical to continue open communication between the general public, Legislators and the Met Council, so that as decisions are made, all aspects of transportation are being considered. In addition, taking care of what we have must be first and foremost before building more.
From protecting children from abuse to providing care for the elderly and people with disabilities and serving our veterans — I am committed to making sure that Dakota County offers the best care possible. If and when you or a family member needs care, I want you to get the support you need without having to jump through unnecessary hoops.
About Holly Jenkins
After earning an undergraduate degree in Finance from the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire, I started my career with Peterson Financial Corp., a small investment firm in Excelsior, followed by Dean Witter Reynolds, and then Piper Jaffray. While employed full time, I attended night school and earned an MBA in Finance from the Carlson School of Management.My path was surely headed to a career on Wall Street. Then, I took my first trip to the Boundary Waters. I was hooked, and knew I would never leave Minnesota. My career path started to change.
I met my future husband, Jeff, while we were both employed at Piper Jaffray. When our daughter Sarah was born, I decided to stay home with her while searching for a career that would allow me to combine my business experience with my outdoor passion. When Sam was born, we decided to move out of our beloved bungalow in South Minneapolis.
After searching across the metro, we were drawn to Eagan — not too much, not too little. It was the quality vs. quantity that won us over as the perfect place to raise our children.
As a community volunteer, I served for five years on the board of the Parent-Teacher Organization at Northview Elementary in various roles including President, Treasurer, and Fundraising Chair. I was a Girl Scout leader for six years, and served on the Lebanon Hills Advisory Panel in 2015. I currently serve on the Board of Directors for Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness, and am founder of Wilderness in the City, a community-based 501(c)3 nonprofit.
Wilderness in the City
As my kids were growing, we spent many days wandering in Lebanon Hills. It was a wonderful option, and indeed a blessing, to be able to take the kids into nature, and not skip their naptime at home.
In 2013, I learned of the County’s plans to change Lebanon Hills into the hub of their regional bike trail network. I realized that the experience for park visitors and future generations would never be the same—and because most people were unaware of the pending changes, I decided to do whatever I could to inform others.
I started a nonprofit organization, Wilderness in the City (WITC), as a way to inform the public of decisions being made by the County, and how people could take action. With the help of many volunteers, Wilderness in the City has grown and will continue to support Lebanon Hills and other natural areas through stewardship, outreach and advocacy.
It was Lebanon Hills that first drew me into County issues, and I have remained engaged on many levels by meeting with elected officials and staff, attending and participating in County Board and Committee meetings, as well as Met Council and the Legislature. These groups are part of the decision-making process.
The group most often left out of the process is the public – and that is detrimental to our communities. I am determined to change that. When issues impact our quality of life, we deserve to have a voice when decisions are being made. It’s our money… it’s our future… it’s our legacy.
Meaningful Citizen Engagement
I am passionate about my community, and am determined to bring the public back into the decision making process because together, we will make Dakota County the best it can be.