City names new point person to oversee Promise Zone work

Julianne Leerssen, founding director of the Neighborhood Hub in North Minneapolis, has been named the city’s new equity and inclusion manager and will be charged with overseeing the city’s Promise Zone work.

The city has one of 20 Promise Zones across the country — a White House initiative designed to revitalize areas of concentrated poverty. The Minneapolis Promise Zone includes neighborhoods in North Minneapolis — portions of the Webber-Camden, Folwell, McKinley, Jordan, Willard-Hay, Near North and Harrison neighborhoods.

Leerssen grew up on the North Side and has a law degree from William Mitchell. She has 15 years of experience working on community issues in North Minneapolis

Mayor Betsy Hodges said Leerssen brings a “wealth of experience in social service, advocacy and organizing to the city.”

“With Julianne on board we now have one of the key resources in place to build a better future for north Minneapolis, which means a better and brighter future for all of Minneapolis,” she said.

City Council President Barb Johnson (Ward 4) said Leerssen has a strong track record of helping improve people’s lives through her work at the Neighborhood Hub, which is a one-stop resource center for families.

City Council Member Blong Yang (Ward 5) said Leerssen will help align the city’s work with other organizations to address the challenges on the North Side. “Persistent unemployment, crime, and unaffordable substandard housing are just some of the challenges facing the people I represent,” he said. “Our moral obligation is to ensure that the North Side and its residents are as healthy, thriving, and economically prosperous as any other part of the city.”

The city’s goals for the Promise Zone include reducing racial inequities in public services and institutions for residents; reducing violent crime; tackling the achievement gap for students, strengthening the local economy and promoting stable housing.