The seven-county labor federation based in Minneapolis has taken a sharp turn toward youth in filling its top leadership post.

Chelsie Glaubitz Gabiou, 30, was elected president of the Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation Wednesday night by representatives of its 170 affiliates. She replaces William McCarthy who assumed the presidency of the Minnesota AFL-CIO in October. She was unopposed.

Glaubitz Gabiou is the first woman to lead the federation in its 112-year history. But her election with McCarthy's encouragement is considered more notable among those familiar with the federation for its turn toward youth. She's more than 30 years younger than McCarthy.

"It definitely breaks the pattern -- and purposefully," said Louise Sundin, the federation's executive vice president.

The position traditionally has been held by veteran labor leaders near the end of their careers. McCarthy transformed the role of the federation in his nearly 14 years there, shifting it from a body that focused on supporting labor candidates to one more engaged year-round with community groups such as the recent Minneapolis Works workplace reforms campaign.

Glaubitz Gabiou was hired by the federation in 2012, first as its political director and then more broadly supervising political and community organizing efforts. She said she's benefited from mentoring from veteran labor leaders. She's also been picked to participate in a national network to develop emerging labor leaders.

She attributed her election despite her youth to the changing nature of labor union work that's shifting toward more strategic campaigns adapted to the changing nature of work and labor markets.

"It's people like me who need to be joining the union," she said. She said that one challenge will be trying to grow union membership in changing workplaces where a growing share of workers are independent contractors.

The Minneapolis federation grew from 60,000 members in affiliated unions in 2002 to 75,000 under McCarthy's tenure. Its territory includes Hennepin, Anoka, Scott, Carver, Meeker, Wright and McLeod counties. McCarthy succeeded retiring Shar Knutson as Minnesota AFL-CIO president. She was the first woman to hold that position when elected in 2009. 

Glaubitz Gabiou grew up in a non-union household in Eagle Lake, a suburb of Mankato, the daughter of a factory worker and secretary. Her first exposure to unions came when she transfered colleges, going from a non-union job as a grocery clerk for Cub Foods in Mankato to one at Cub's Midway store in St. Paul, which was represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers. She noticed that a greater share of the Midway store workers were able to make a career with the St. Paul store's wages and benefits.

The political science student got involved in campaigns for DFLers Al Franken, Gary Schiff and Paul Thissen before becoming a field organizer for the Rochester-based Southeast Area Labor Council.

Glaubitz Gabiou and her husband Michael live in the Hamline-Midway area of St. Paul with their 1-year-old son.