Call to public service began with city commission

Meet Commissioner Jan Callison

Meet Commissioner Jan Callison

District 6 Commissioner Jan Callison has been involved in local government in some way for nearly 25 years.

The South Dakota native, who worked abroad as a nanny before earning her degree from Harvard Law School, said public office represents the chance to be of service to the community.

“We have a very special form of government. We are able to govern ourselves," Callison said. “For that to be successful, we have obligations as citizens. We need to be informed, we need to communicate with our elected officials, we need to vote. And some of us need to run for office. And it's just not more complicated than that."

Callison entered public service as a volunteer member with the city of Minnetonka's zoning adjustment board before joining the city's planning commission. She ran for council and served 12 years before being elected as mayor.

One morning during her tenure as mayor, Callison said she woke up to learn county funding for Shady Oak Road project had been cut. Then and there, she decided to get involved with the county. In 2008, she was elected to the county board.

Shifting roles

In her 11 years on the board, Callison has served as chair of the board and head of the Regional Railroad Authority. During that time, she said she learned to balance the best interests of the communities she represents with the needs of the county as a whole.

“Sometimes, those two are in conflict," and commissioners must make the best decisions possible for the whole, Callison said.

Hennepin County's strengths lay in its size, resources and diversity. It also has an ability to chart its own path.

“If we have a challenge, we have the ability and resources to meet that challenge in ways other counties may not," Callison said.

“I'm sure every generation feels like it has a more difficult path forward than the one before it," Callison said. Today, the board's challenges include allocating scarce resources at a time when demands on county government are increasing and state mandates are growing.

Making the case at the State Capitol

Over the last year, Callison has served as co-chair of the county's Intergovernmental Relations committee, where she and Commissioner Mike Opat have helped the team develop positions and testify in front of the state legislature in St. Paul.

For Callison, Southwest Light Rail Transit (Green Line extension) project has been another major point of focus.

“I think it's going to have a lasting impact for the county," Callison said. Rerouting the line into business districts in Southern Minnetonka and Eden Prairie became a turning point because it will help connect people throughout the metropolitan area to jobs in southern Minnetonka and Eden Prairie.

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