Hamline News

Distinguished Women Recognized for Work in Public Service


It’s time to shine the spotlight on women who devote their time and energy to the betterment of their communities. At the annual Women in Public Service conference, hosted by Hamline University’s Center for Public Administration and Leadership and the Master in Public Administration program, attendees seek to explore how women are “Cultivating Authentic Leadership.” The conference is also a chance to recognize dynamic women who create lasting impacts through their devotion to civic engagement, community work, leadership, volunteering, and public service.

In 2013, four women will be recognized for their achievements through two awards, The Rising Star award and The Women In Public Service Lifetime Achievement Award. Three distinguished women, Mindy Manninen, Mary VanMilligen, Amanda Varley will receive the Rising Star Award, a recognition given to women who have served in the public sector for ten year or less, but are already making a powerful impact. The honor of receiving The Women In Public Service Lifetime Achievement Award will go to longtime Minnetonka City Attorney Desly Peterson for her outstanding contributions to the public good. The service of these distinguished women has left significant impacts on their surrounding communities and served as a catalyst to encourage other women to commit to the important work of public service. Read more about these remarkable women below. #WIPS2013

Mindy Manninen-Rising Star

Mindy Manninen completed her Master of Arts in Public Administration from Hamline University and currently serves as a member of the Hamline University Center for Public Administration and Leadership Advisory Board. Manninen began her contributions to public service with work at the Hennepin County Department of Community Corrections & Rehabilitation (DOCCR). She has worked directly with court-ordered clients on community restoration projects as a Sentencing to Service crew leader. Continuing her work in Hennepin County, she later moved into supervision in the Community Offender Management Division to create positive work environments for youth by working with juvenile justice partners and staff. Now, she has taken on the role as manager of the Train, Coach, and Practice Unit with the DOCCR and is working to improve training efforts to support evidence based practices and safety training for DOCCR staff.

Mary VanMilligen-Rising Star

While obtaining her Master in Public Administration degree at Northern Illinois University, Mary VanMilligen became involved in local government as an intern to the village manager in the Village of Downers Grove, IL. VanMilligen has demonstrated her devotion to community work, public service, and leadership through volunteering, as shown in her two terms with AmeriCorps and LeadAmerica. In her current role as assistant to the city administrator in the City of Woodbury, VanMilligen continues to exemplify these leadership skills by managing the city’s performance measurement program, assisting with budgeting, providing assistance with special projects, and by serving on the International City County Managers Association Taskforce for Women in the Profession.

Amanda Varley-Rising Star

With a Master of Public Policy degree from the Hubert Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota, Amanda Varley takes a very active role in the promotion of education. Varley’s devotion to civic engagement, cross-sector collaboration, and consensus building has driven her to work with students at the middle school level who have emotional and behavioral disorders, and to co-lead the School Readiness Study, a developmental assessment of kindergarten entrance. She currently advocates for the state’s Race to the Top - Early Learning Challenge Grant and works in the Minnesota Department of Education as an early childhood education specialist. Her presence on the board of Young Education Professionals-Twin Cities, and Citizens League and YWCA Minneapolis committees is testimony to her commitment and achievements.

Desyl Peterson- The Women In Public Service Lifetime Achievement Award 

After obtaining an education from the University of Minnesota Law School, Desyl Peterson worked at the Minneapolis law firm Popham & Haik, where she became the first woman partner. She later became a civil attorney for St. Louis Park and a criminal prosecutor for various cities in the western Twin Cities suburbs. Her vast experience has helped her to emerge as a leader in municipal law. She went on to serve as Minnetonka’s city attorney from 1984 - 2013. Under her guidance, the city became a frontrunner in legal matters pertaining to land use, licensing, real estate, and municipal law. With the use of her experience and skills, Peterson developed collaborative agreements with local school districts, youth organizations, neighboring cities, and a wide variety of associations. For the betterment of the city, Peterson worked on the Minnesota City Attorney’s Association and the International Municipal Lawyers Association. She also served as the chair of the Minnetrista-St. Bonifacius Consolidation Study Commission (1997-99) and facilitator of the Long-Lake Orono Consolidation Study Committee (1999-2000). Peterson has received many awards, most notably a Public Attorney Award of Excellence from the Minnesota State Bar Association, a Distinguished Public Service Award from the International Municipal Lawyers Association, and the Spirit of Minnetonka Award. Hamline University is proud recognize Peterson The Women In Public Service Lifetime Achievement Award for her 29 years of dedication.