There's a new economic development leader in Anoka County, and officials say she will play a key role as the county works to polish its image.

Anoka County commissioners unanimously approved Jacquel Hajder this month for the newly minted position of economic development specialist. Hajder, who most recently worked as housing and economic development coordinator for White Bear Lake, will act as a point person in Anoka County for cities and stakeholders, county officials said.

The new position is part of a broader initiative that aims to attract businesses, tackle perception issues and promote a unified message among Anoka County's diverse communities.

The initiative stems from a recent $40,000 study conducted by the county, Connexus Energy and MetroNorth Chamber of Commerce that examined the area's economic opportunities and obstacles, from commuter trends to branding strategies.

"This is a great first step in implementing that process," Commissioner Scott Schulte said at the June 12 County Board meeting.

Hajder, who has a bachelor's degree in real estate and finance from the University of St. Thomas, will be paid an annual salary of $80,000. She will begin her new job on July 9, according to county officials.

Hannah Covington

Ramsey County

Six finalists to interview for top county job

Ramsey County commissioners have selected six finalists to interview for the position of county manager, which opens up at the end of the month when Julie Kleinschmidt retires.

The candidates are: Amy Dellwo, director of government and external relations for the Minnesota Department of Human Services; Reginald Edwards, deputy city manager of Brooklyn Center; Matt Kramer, vice president of university relations at the University of Minnesota; Kevin Lindsey, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Human Rights; Ryan O'Connor, who has been Kleinschmidt's deputy county manager since 2016; and Alene Tchourumoff, chairwoman of the Metropolitan Council.

The manager serves as Ramsey County's CEO, overseeing a staff of more than 4,000 with a $736 million budget. The job will pay between $146,000 and $217,000 depending on qualifications and experience.

Interviews, which will be open to the public, are scheduled for 12:45 p.m. Monday, 10 a.m. Tuesday and 9 a.m. Wednesday. They will be held in Suite 220 at St. Paul City Hall.

Kleinschmidt, who has worked for the county since 2000, became the first woman to serve as Ramsey County manager when she moved into the position in 2009. She came to the job with more than 20 years of government finance experience, some of it as Hennepin County controller.

Greg Stanley


New outdoor spaces coming to Bunker Hills

Nature enthusiasts visiting Bunker Hills Regional Park will soon see two new outdoor spaces taking shape at the park's activities center in Andover.

The Anoka County Board this month approved a nearly $1 million contract to build two outdoor gathering areas at the 1,600-acre park's activities center.

The project will add a 150-person open-air deck for special events and an outdoor patio space where park visitors can linger and admire the view. The patio project will repurpose an existing greenhouse.

"We have a very nice indoor meeting space," Jeff Perry, director of the county's parks and recreation department, told commissioners at the June 12 meeting. "But to have the opportunity to connect the public to the outside space will be very important."

The project will be funded by Park and Trail Legacy grants from the Metropolitan Council, according to county officials. Construction was expected to begin immediately and wrap up by November.

Hannah Covington

Columbia Heights

Crowded elections draw old, new faces

Voters in Columbia Heights are invited to a July 18 forum to meet candidates for several local races.

The closely watched races for Anoka County commissioner in the Fourth District and Columbia Heights mayor have attracted an array of new and familiar faces. Six people are vying for the mayoral seat, while four hopefuls have tossed their names into the hat for the County Board seat, which has been held by members of the Kordiak family for 64 years.

The forum is planned from 7 to 9:30 p.m. in the council chambers at City Hall, 590 40th Av. NE.

The primary election will be held Aug. 14 to narrow both races to two candidates each, ahead of the general election in November. Also on the November ballot will be candidates vying for two open City Council seats.

Hannah Covington

West St. Paul

Green takes seat on planning commission

Samantha Green attended her first planning commission meeting last week, following a tumultuous several weeks when she was first rejected for the job by the City Council and then finally approved for the position on a unanimous vote.

Green was one of three women appointed to the commission in April by Mayor Jenny Halverson, but failed to win confirmation. A council member said it was because an incumbent commissioner was seeking reappointment, but Halvorson said it was because of sexism.

The dispute prompted dozens of residents to charge four council members with ongoing sexism. The night after the meeting, Green and Halverson each found maxi pads and Kleenex on their doorsteps. Outraged citizens responded by bringing hundreds of packages of maxi pads and tampons to the next council meeting, where they spoke about the need for change in attitudes.

Council members reversed themselves and approved Green on June 11 without commenting on the controversy. Council Member Anthony Fernandez had said he regretted letting personal feelings get in the way of appointing Green.

Erin Adler