The Invisible Government

Last year, as I went door to door during my campaign for County Commissioner, the most frequestnly asked question was, […]

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Last year, as I went door to door during my campaign for County Commissioner, the most frequestnly asked question was, “What does Hennepin County do?” It’s a fair question that deserves a complete answer. In this column for Access Press I’d like to start with a few basics, including programs and services Hennepin County provides for persons with disabilities.

There are seven Hennepin County Commissioners. I will repressent the First Commissioner District which covers south and southeast Minneapolis, and incudes about forty percent of the city. Each of the seven county commissioners represents approximately 145,000 of the more than one million people living in Hennepin County.

The County Board meets Tues¬days at 10:00 a.m. in the County Board room on the 24th floor of the Government Center, 300 South 6th Street, across the street from City Hall. Meetings are open to the public. I will chair the Intergovernmental Relations Committee which sets forth our county priorities to the state, city, Met Council, and other units of government. I will also chair the Public Service Committee as well as the Housing and Redevelop¬ment Authority. Committees of the Board meet on Thursday mornings, starting at 10:00 a.m.


With a population of over 1 million people and a budget of over $1 billion, Hennepin County is the largest unit of local government in Minnesota, and the 18th largest county in the United States. Despite its size, the county is often overlooked. Some have
even referred to it as the “invisible government”. I hope to change that. There is sim¬ply too much at stake for the county to be operating in relative obscurity. The county must work with other levels of government, community organizations and community residents. To do that, county government must be more accessible and inclusive. My first resolution, which the County Board adopted, called for unlocking the doors lead¬ing to the offices of the com¬missioners and beginning a policy of open door government.


In Hennepin County we have a large, diverse and active population of persons with disabilities and county government can play a critical role in their lives. Last year Hennepin County served over 1400 persons with disabilities. As you may know, Hennepin County provides of number of direct services, including:

Case Management provides social workers and case workers to assist adults with disabilities with problem solving, independent living, self-sufficiency, training and employment and to help the individual attain his or her highest level of independent functioning.

School-City Transition offers services to youth with disabilities (ages 14-21) to assist them in making a successful graduation from school to community adult life.

Hearing Impaired Program offers assistance to deaf/blind, deaf and hard of hearing individuals.

Disability Appeals Assistance provides help to individuals who appeal their denial or termination of Social Security Disability Benefits
Hennepin County also has several contracted programs which provide living skills training, attendant care, counseling, advocacy, information and referral services, and employment training. I will elaborate on these programs in an upcoming column. If you would like more information on county programs and services for persons with disabilities, please contact Don Sabre at 348-7604.

On a more personal note, I want to share with you an enriching recent experience. I was invited to tour AccessAbility, Inc., a program partially funded by Hennepin County. At their facility on Hoover Street in Minneapolis, 100 people with severe, multiple disabilities find long-term employment opportunities. In a single year one group of workers process almost half a billion coupons! AccessAbility’s Robbinsdale facility employs another 140 people. What I discovered was a work force which enjoys a real sense of community and takes a great deal of pride in their work.


I am excited about the opportunity to serve you. I invite your suggestions, comments and questions. My office number is (612) 348-3085. I’m here to make a difference by working for and with you.

  • Wash your hands! Hands that look can still have icky germs!
  • Work with your care provider to stay healthy. Protect yourself. Vaccines are your best protection against being sick.

You are not alone. Minnesota Autism Resource Portal.