Hennepin County board chair: ‘Every day I’m on the verge of forgetting to eat lunch’

The Southwest Journal is documenting the coronavirus pandemic by recording the personal stories of Minneapolis residents and workers whose daily lives are in a state of flux. As the outbreak evolves, we will be checking in with the participants regularly. Read all of the stories here.

All interviews are conducted over the phone, and conversations are edited for length and clarity.

Marion Greene, Hennepin County board chair

It’s definitely harder to separate work and life and right now. My husband is understanding. I want to do everything and be everything I can be in these difficult days, especially these first days. I do want to pace myself and not burn out.

Anytime I check in with anything at the federal level I just think, “Oh, my gosh.” We at the state and the local level have got to be what’s missing from Washington. When I get in touch with that, I really feel like I need to have stamina and pace myself.

On Saturday I spoke to [Hennepin County Administrator] David Hough, and he said, and I agreed, we should have a board meeting Thursday to share information. We’ve talked about the content that’s good for that. When we set out our plans last week we purposely gave ourselves a window by putting a stake in the ground on the April 6 date to say by that point we’ll have a plan or consider the next segment of time. I feel good about the fact that we did that. We created a window but didn’t make it infinite.

The big thing for me this week is the fact that we are the social safety net and we have a correctional function. We have a jail and a workhouse. For me those are the spaces where I really want to make sure we’re being as aggressive as we can be to push out and create good public health protocols in the jail. And also, what are we doing about housing?

We are one of the only counties that provide financial support to food shelves. Increasingly what we’re hearing is that it’s a big issue and food insecurity is real, and what can be done about it. There’s always this tension, and this is true in normal times: We want to raise our hands but we also need support from the state.

In my regular life I’m not the best at having a set schedule. In the life of a county commissioner, every day is different. With this I do see how for my own health, for my own ability to be a smart, thoughtful leader, it’s important to get my eight hours a day of sleep and eat regular meals. I’d say I’m sort of a work in progress, but in a way, because I am stuck at home, it’s easier to adhere to some things.

Every day I’m on the verge of forgetting to eat lunch, and then Bart [Greene’s husband] will wave to me on a call and say, “Do you want me to make you a peanut butter and honey sandwich?” I’m struck every day by how grateful I am for that.