The fourteen leaders profiled in these photo essays are involved in a range of political, civic, and humanitarian endeavors in the local community and beyond (more about the project).
Beth Berry began TORCH in 2004 to address the gap between the number of Latino students entering Nothfield high school and the number of Latino students both graduating and moving on to post-secondary options. With Beth’s hard work to fund the program and to keep spirits high, she has expanded her program to reach low income students in the high school and middle school.
David Bly is a former member of the Minnesota House of Representatives. He served two terms in office beginning in January of 2007 and ending in January of 2011. Most recently, he has written a book based on The Middle Class Amendment, which he was involved in creating. He also worked as a teacher in multiple different environments, including an alternative high school in Northfield. He is currently running for office with hopes of representing the district including Northfield in the Minnesota House of Representatives.
Ray Cox spent most of his life in Northfield as an active member of the community. Through involvement in political campaigns as a young child and participation in the Northfield school board during adulthood, Mr. Cox has contributed his valuable time to Northfield. Beyond Northfield, Mr. Cox served as a representative in the Minnesota House. Currently, Mr. Cox owns the Northfield Construction Company.
Father Denny Dempsey became pastor at St. Dominic Catholic Church in June 2004. He serves as a religious leader and supportive hand to the Northfield community, especially to the Spanish-speaking community. The music at Mass and the faith of the people are inspiring to Father Dempsey, and he enjoys the diversity of co-existing English and Hispanic communities.
Bonnie Jean Flom is a very active member of the community here in Northfield. She recently served as the President of the League of Women’s Voters (Northfield – Cannon falls chapter). Mrs. Flom is passionate about education and served as a teacher and principal for several years. She even helped found the first conversion charter school in Minnesota. Mrs. Flom is still involved with education and volunteers at her grandson’s school every week.
Sandi Gerdes, a member of the Northfield community since 1979, has strived to actively participate in civic engagement. And through her work at the Laura Baker Services Association, in local Northfield politics, and through her church, Sandi has taken the role of a community educator, helping the people of Northfield through general education services.
Reginaldo Haslett-Morroquin lives with his family on their farm outside of Northfield. He works at the Rural Enterprise Center, a non-profit organization focused on educating immigrant families on sustainable agricultural practices. He serves as a board member of the Northfield Area Foundation and volunteers frequently with his church and children’s schools.
Erin Mayberry is the current Vice President of the Northfield organization WINGS (Women in Northfield Giving Support), an entrepreneurial fund dedicated to financial assistance. Erin, current recreation coordinator of Northfield, was inspired to begin work for the organization after being invited to the annual grants luncheon. WINGS seemed like a worthy cause to her, one that was helping women and children of the Northfield community succeed.
Kari Nelson, a graduate of St. Olaf College, received her law degree from the University of Minnesota. She is a multi-term member of the Northfield school board, for which she has served as chair. She also has been a leader in campaigns to secure funding for the schools. She and her husband have three children.
Jessica Peterson White attended Carleton College and has remained a part of the Northfield Community. Jessica founded a knitting supply business downtown, and then was elected, as one of the youngest women ever elected to a county board in Minnesota, to the Rice County Board. Jessica was the DFL-endorsed candidate for State Senate in the 25th district in 2006, and is also active in the League of Women Voters. She is now a Senior Project Manager at Grassroots Solutions, which is a consulting firm that specializes in grassroots engagement and organization.
Rhonda Pownell, City Councilor, mother, and St. Olaf grad, has devoted her life to service. She graduated from St. Olaf with a degree in Social Work, making a firm commitment to changing lives. Today, she works extensively within her church and the Northfield community as a whole. For Mrs. Pownell, our goal as community members should be to serve others, even in the smallest of acts. From her work as City Councilor to inspiring her children through homeschooling, Rhonda Pownell is a leader.
Susan Sanderson is a prominent Northfield citizen who, along with other moms from Northfield, began the Community Builders program, started the middle school youth center, and is currently the head of the TORCH (Tackling Obstacles and Raising College Hopes) program at the Northfield Middle School working with students who are minority, low-income, and/or first-generation college.
Active in the Northfield online community, Griff Wigley helped to launch “Northfield.org” and “locallygrownnorthfield.org.” He now uses Locally Grown to cover the people, issues, and events of Northfield. Griff discusses the influences of his blog, one example being on the town council’s decision on replanting trees. He emphasizes the importance of active citizenship.
Erica Zweifel currently is a City Councilor for Northfield, Minnesota. She was a research associate in the Biology Department at St. Olaf and now is the project manager at Carleton's Science Education Resource Center. She also serves on Northfield's Environmental Quality Commission. Projects she has helped develop include the addition of bike trails extending from Northfield to Mankato and a new bus route for the city. One major project underway is the implementation of solar panels throughout the public buildings of Northfield, receiving help and recognition from Minnesota’s Senator, Al Franken.