• WIPS Award Recipient Biographies

    From those who have paved the way and blazed new trails for women in public service to those who are making an impact as they navigate and create careers as up-and-coming leaders, the stories of WIPS award recipients are truly inspirational.

    Lifetime Achievement Award Recipients

    Jettie Anne Hill, 2019 Women in Public Service Award Recipient

    Jettie-Hill-WIPS-2019 Hill has worked for the state of Minnesota as an ombudsman with the Office of Ombudsman for Families for 27 years. Her prior work experience includes roles as a domestic violence educator, juvenile court advocate, investigator, business owner, foster parent trainer, early childhood advocate, foster parent, teacher, organizer, volunteer for the arts, community activist, good neighbor and friend, thorn in the side of many policymakers and elected officials, survivor of Jim Crow laws and the civil rights movement, mother, elder, and now a grandmother and soon to be retiree. Outside of her work with the state of Minnesota, she donates her time, talent, and resources to ensure the election of African Americans and other women (and men) of color to the Minnesota House and Senate. She is a founding member of Black Women Rising, a nonprofit organization designed to recruit and prepare black women to run for elected and appointed political positions..

    Julie Jones, 2019 Women in Public Service Award Recipient

    Julie-Jones-WIPS-2019 Julie Jones began her municipal government career 32 years ago at the city of Crystal, where she coordinated housing programs and recycling services. After seven years at Crystal, she worked for a short time as the housing director at the city of Brooklyn Park. After leaving Brooklyn Park, she worked in the Environmental Health Department at the city of Edina for two years before taking a planning position with the city of Fridley, where she advanced to manage the Planning Division of Community Development. She retired after nearly 23 years at the city of Fridley just a few weeks ago.

    Elizabeth Kautz, 2018 Women in Public Service Award Recipient

    Elizabeth-Kautz-Thumbnail Elizabeth Kautz first served as a member of the Burnsville City Council in 1992 before being elected as the mayor of Burnsville in 1994. She has served as the mayor of Burnsville ever since. While the mayor is paid as a part-time position ($12,000 annually), Mayor Kautz routinely works 40+ hours each week in her service to the city and community. Along with her work as an elected official in Burnsville, she has been highly active in several professional and community organizations, including serving as president of the US Conference of Mayors, member of the Governor’s Workforce Development and Early Childhood Councils, Burnsville Lions Club, and YMCA of Minneapolis, just to name a few. Mayor Kautz is a shining example of a woman in public service, committing her career to serving the common good.

    Debbie Montgomery, 2018 Women in Public Service Award Recipient

    Debbie-Montgomery-ThumbnailDebbie Montgomery’s commitment to public service began at a young age as an active member of the Saint Paul NAACP youth group. At 17, she became the youngest person elected to the NAACP’s National Board of Directors. In the 1970s, as a favor for her boss, then Mayor Lawrence Cohen, she became a reluctant member of the police academy who then went on to be the first female officer in the Saint Paul Police Department, eventually rising to the rank of senior commander. Commander Montgomery also served as assistant commissioner in the Minnesota Department of Public Safety and as the city council member for Ward 1 in Saint Paul. Her dedication to serving the common good will forever be a part of Saint Paul, and her legacy was honored by the city through naming a portion of Marshall Avenue after her.

    Carol Hubbard, 2017 Women in Public Service Award Recipient

    Carol HubbardCarol has worked in many capacities for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency for the last 27 years, most notably as the trainer and handler of Clancy, the country’s only mercury-detecting dog. Carol and Clancy visited schools throughout Minnesota looking for mercury spills and removing mercury equipment from science labs. They found numerous spills, removed over 2,000 pounds of mercury, and educated over 50,000 Minnesotans about the dangers of mercury.

    Most recently, Carol worked with other state agencies on a study to determine the scope of the problem of mercury-catalyzed, polyurethane floors in K-12 schools. She is also part of a team comprised of federal and state officials looking at the issue of skin-lightening creams containing mercury that are sold illegally in Minnesota. Carol is part of a multiagency team charged with educating mainly immigrant women about the dangers associated with using these creams.

    Carol is planning to retire from public service next March to spend more time traveling with her dog Ruby.

    Pamela J. Parker, 2016 Women in Public Service Award Recipient

    Pamela ParkerPamela has over 35 years of experience in Medicare and Medicaid, consumer advocacy, health care financing and rate setting, managed long term services and supports (MLTSS), Medicare and Medicaid integration (MMI), managed care for people with dual eligibility, and Medicare Advantage D-SNP policy. She was responsible for development and implementation of the nation’s first state sponsored integrated Medicare and Medicaid demonstration for people with dual eligibility approved by Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) in 1995, Minnesota Senior Health Options (MSHO). In 2013, she facilitated the return of MSHO to demonstration status as the first integrated Medicare Medicaid D-SNP demonstration under the CMS Medicare Medicaid Coordination Office’s (MMCO) alignment initiative for people with dual eligibility.

    Pamela retired from a long career at Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) in 2014, after serving as Minnesota’s first state long term care ombudsman, director of long term care, and, most recently, manager of special needs purchasing, where she was responsible for development and implementation of managed care programs (MSHO), Special Needs Basic Care (SNBC), and Minnesota Senior Care Plus (MSC+), serving over 100,000 seniors and people with disabilities with total annual costs of nearly $1 billion.

    Pamela has a Masters of Public Administration from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, where she was a Bush Leadership Fellow. She has served as advisor to the Center for Health Care Strategies, MedPAC, MACPAC, AARP, NCQA, NQF, National Academy for State Health Policy, and the Alliance for Health Reform on special projects related to MLTSS, MMI, quality assurance, and dual eligibility. She currently serves as MMI consultant to the National Health Policy Group (sponsors of the SNP Alliance) and provides MMI consultant services to health plans and states.


    Kit Hadley

    Kit Hadley recently retired as director of the Saint Paul Public Library. During her six-year tenure, she strengthened learning initiatives, expanded multilanguage and community-based services, and completed renovations at several libraries. She was the executive director of Heading Home Minnesota, a statewide campaign to end homelessness, and director of the Minneapolis Public Library from 2003 to 2007. At the Minneapolis Public Library, she led initiatives to strengthen literacy efforts, complete the construction of the new Central Library, and secure approval to merge the Minneapolis Public and Hennepin County Libraries. Prior to joining the library, she was appointed as the commissioner of the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency from 1994 to 2002. She has served on the boards of the Saint Paul Public Housing Agency, Minneapolis Foundation, Hearth Connection, Preservation of Affordable Housing, Youthprise, and St. Paul Youth Services. She is currently on the Legal Services Advisory Committee.


    Sharon Sayles Belton

    Sharon Sayles Belton is vice president of Government Affairs and Community Relations for Thomson Reuters, Legal. Prior to joining Thomson Reuters, Sharon served as director of Community Relations and Corporate Philanthropy at GMAC Financial Services. Sharon served as mayor of Minneapolis from 1994 to 2001. She was the first woman and first African American to be elected mayor. During her time in office, she achieved national recognition as an expert on public/private partnerships in public safety, neighborhood revitalization, and economic development. She served on the Minneapolis City Council for 10 years and was council president from 1990-1994. Sayles Belton began her career with the Minnesota Department of Corrections as a Parole Officer and was promoted to assistant director of the Minnesota Program for Victims of Sexual Assault. Sharon completed the Executive Leadership Institute, Harvard University (1988) and graduated from Macalester College. She is a senior fellow at the University of Minnesota, Hubert H. Humphrey Institute and a fellow at the National Academy of Public Administration.

    Desyl Peterson, 2013 Women in Public Service Award Recipient

    WIPS: Desyl Peterson

    Desyl Peterson was Minnetonka’s full-time city attorney for more than 28 years, but her influence and commitment to public service extended beyond that city’s boundaries. Over the years, she trained countless newly elected city council members, planning commission members, and municipal employees throughout the state. Desyl acted as a mentor to other city attorneys, offering counsel and sharing ideas. Her innovative solutions to difficult legal issues were often copied. She also lent her time and expertise to other cities, facilitating two merger study commissions for four cities, successfully mediating a complex dispute between two others, and serving on the League of Minnesota Cities Board of Directors and the League’s Insurance Trust Board of Trustees. Desyl is a past recipient of the Public Attorney Award of Excellence from the Minnesota State Bar Association and the Distinguished Public Service Award from the International Municipal Lawyers Association.

    Ruby Hunt, 2012 Women in Public Service Award Recipient

    WIPS: Ruby Hunt

    The first recipient of the award, Ruby Hunt, truly exemplifies the spirit the award is meant to convey. Ruby, a former Saint Paul City Council member and Ramsey County commissioner has a deep passion for good governance and social justice. She was a quiet leader who played a vital role in such key actions as passing the Saint Paul charter, establishment of the Ramsey County manager position, establishment of Regions Hospital and development of the central corridor transit system. Ruby dedicated her lifework to the common good and even in retirement continues to fight for good governance and social justice.

    Rising Star Award Recipients

    Chelsey Tulgren, 2019 Rising Star Award Recipient

    Chelsey-Tulgren-WIPS-2019 Chelsey currently teaches men at Stillwater Correctional Facility, a maximum security prison. Chelsey has been teaching GED, college, and career preparation classes at Stillwater for the past three years. Some of Chelsey’s advocacy work at Stillwater includes working towards securing accommodations for students with disabilities and mental health illnesses and bringing in trauma informed classroom management and mindfulness exercises. Previous to teaching at Stillwater, Chelsey taught adult education for Anoka Hennepin, working mainly with immigrant and refugee populations, and then with Americorp, working with a college access nonprofit at Como Park High School in Saint Paul. Outside of work, Chelsey volunteers with Hope Ave., an organization involved in combatting homelessness, does street outreach, works informally to welcome new immigrants to her community, and is actively learning more about issues like white privilege and equity.

    Nitika Moibi, 2017 Rising Star Award Recipient

    Nitika Moibi Nitika directs the state’s Health Workforce Analysis program, which collects and analyzes healthcare workforce data at the Office of Rural Health and Primary Care within the Minnesota Department of Health. The program serves as a resource for regulators, policy makers, educators, and researchers to better understand healthcare workforce access, distribution, and pipeline challenges and inform related policies. Through her data and evaluation work, Nitika has helped establish pathways for new providers and further improve the health system’s ability to expand access to the underserved. Prior to her current position, Nitika worked in health services research and has experience in rulemaking.

    Seema Desai, 2017 Rising Star Award Recipient

    Seema Desai 02Seema Desai currently serves as the director for the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s Office of Equity and Diversity. In this role, Seema oversees agency-wide equity, diversity, equal opportunity, nondiscrimination, and affirmative action activities and programs and is responsible for providing expert advice and legal consultation to ensure compliance with all applicable state and federal laws relating to employment discrimination. Seema Desai joined MnDOT in 2015 with a JD from Hamline University School of Law and with a BA in gender, women, and sexuality studies and Asian American studies. Seema is a licensed attorney and a qualified mediator, with over 10 years of experience in the field of civil rights, including enforcement of municipal, state, and federal discrimination laws.

    Kari Egerstrom Collins, 2016 Rising Star Award Recipient

    Kari CollinsKari Collins was recently appointed as the community development director for the city of Roseville. Prior to her role in community development, Collins served as the assistant to the city manager, where she was instrumental in influencing public policy for refugees and new Americans. She led Roseville’s Karen Interagency Group, composed of nonprofits and city staff, in identifying gaps in services for the growing Karen population. As an initiative identified by the group, Collins led the city in acquiring land to develop a neighborhood park that will serve approximately 300 youth in southeast Roseville. After learning of predatory behavior toward new Karen residents, she contacted TPT/ECHO to produce a video that would help provide a visual aide to newcomers. The city of Roseville and 16 other agencies signed on to help Minnesota’s newest residents understand their housing rights and responsibilities. This video and curriculum was produced in five languages and continues to be used statewide in English language learner classes. Prior to her work at the city of Roseville, Collins served as the board secretary/zoning administrator for the city of Milwaukee Board of Zoning Appeals. Collins has a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Augsburg College and a Master of Science in urban studies from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

    Kayla B. Fruetel, 2016 Rising Star Award Recipient

    Kayla FruetelKayla Fruetel is an Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran who was honorably discharged in 2012 after completing her commitment to the National Guard. Kayla continued her service to the public, advocating for LGBT rights with the Minnesotans United for All Families organization. She founded the Minnesota Trans group to create a space for transgender people and support alliance among the Minnesota LGBT community. Kayla currently works with at-risk youth for 180 Degrees in St. Cloud, Minnesota as a youth worker. Kayla plans to continue advocating for the LGBT community and the youth of Minnesota through education, empowerment, and youth mentorship programs.

    Danielle Werder, 2016 Rising Star Award Recipient

    Danielle WerderDanielle Werder is a senior planner in Hennepin County’s Office to End Homelessness. Danielle received her bachelor’s degree in social work from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and her Master of Social Work with a concentration in community practice from the University of Minnesota. She has been practicing social work in the Twin Cities for the past seven years in various roles, including a women's domestic violence advocate, a case manager for low-income seniors, and a housing coordinator for homeless youth. Most recently, Danielle managed a redesign of Hennepin County’s single adult shelter system, which launched about a month ago.

    KARI XIONG, 2015 Rising Star Award Recipient

    Kari Xiong

    Kari Xiong is passionate about equity, social justice, and multicultural studies. Her work is focused on embracing diversity, addressing underrepresented student issues, and advancing equity through student, teacher, and staff education, professional development (Culturally Responsive Teaching), and parent engagement. Xiong began working in 2005 as a student learning advocate at Anoka High School. In her current position with Anoka-Hennepin School District as English language cultural liaison, she works primarily with English Language Learners and immigrant/refugee populations. Since 2010, she has served on the Anoka County Immigrant/Refugee Asset Fund Committee. Xiong collaborates with various state and community agencies including the Minnesota Department of Health, Metro Refugee Health Task Force, and Minnesota Education Equity Partnership. Xiong is a nationally trained Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity facilitator, White Privilege Conference participant, and National Association of Multicultural Education Conference presenter. Xiong is an advocate for youth voices to lead powerful conversations on equity and disparities, racial diversity, inclusion, and cultural identities. Xiong also volunteers and serves on the board of directors at Youth Performance Company, a nonprofit theater company focused on youth leadership, empowerment, and social justice issues.

    Kristi Fox, 2015 Rising Star Award Recipient

    Fox, Kristi - WIPS Award 15

    Kristi Fox has served as an attorney in district court cases throughout the state of Minnesota since establishing her solo-practice law firm in 2008. In 2003, she obtained her Bachelor of Arts from Hamline University, majoring in legal studies and women's studies. As a dual-degree graduate student, she received her Juris Doctorate in 2006 from Hamline School of Law and her Master of Public Administration from Hamline School of Business in 2010. In addition, Fox completed the Certificate in Alternative Dispute Resolution through Hamline’s Dispute Resolution Center in 2007. As an actively involved Hamline alumna, Fox continues to volunteer on campus for mock trial competitions and a variety of student mentorship opportunities. Fox shows her love for community work and public service by volunteering her time and services to individuals and families in crisis, dedicating hundreds of hours each year to victims of sexual assault and domestic violence. She has volunteered for a large variety of nonprofit agencies and programs across Minnesota, including: the Sexual Violence Center, Legal Assistance of Dakota County, Ltd., Volunteer Lawyers Network, Minnesota Justice Foundation, Minnesota Innocence Project, Project for Pride in Living, Children's Law Center, Families First, Wills for Heroes, and more than a dozen individual centers providing advocacy and shelter to victims of domestic violence. Since 2012, she has been recognized by the Minnesota Bar Association as a North Star Lawyer, due to the significant amount of pro-bono legal services she provides to low-income individuals. Fox was recently selected as a 2015 Woman of Outstanding Leadership by the International Women's Leadership Association.

    Alyssa Bryan, 2015 Rising Star Award Recipient

    Alyssa Bryan

    Alyssa Bryan is the executive director for the Minnesota Federal Executive Board (FEB), an organization which serves as a catalyst for government efficiencies and innovation. Having led the FEB through seven years of successful inter-agency initiatives, Bryan fosters communication and collaboration among federal, state, and local government agencies. In her position, she organizes the annual federal awards event, honoring up to 100 exceptional employees each year. She has designed, coordinated, and led the Federal Outreach and Leadership Development (FOLD) program, offering classroom sessions and outreach opportunities to more than 120 federal employees representing more than 50 agencies. This program has fostered leadership development for the best and brightest federal leaders and assists with the transition from supervisory role to upper management for many FOLD graduates. Bryan has a professional background in leadership, particularly in cultural exchange. Prior to her work at the FEB, she served for two years as an educator and development worker with the Peace Corps, living in rural West Africa and teaching secondary students. Bryan holds bachelor’s degrees in French and psychology and is completing a Master in Organizational Leadership.

    Gülgün Kayim, 2014 Rising Star Award Recipient

    WIPSAward_KayimGülgün Kayim joined the city of Minneapolis in 2011 in the newly created role of director of arts, culture, and the creative economy. Previously, she was the assistant director of the Bush Foundation’s Artist Fellowship Program. Before joining Bush, she served as the public art on campus coordinator at the Weisman Art Museum and has consulted extensively on site-specific performance, public art, and artist professional development in the Twin Cities. Kayim is also a practicing interdisciplinary artist, co-founder of the Minneapolis-based performance collective Skewed Visions, and a core member of the international artist networks Mapping Spectral Traces and Theatre Without Borders. Her work has been recognized through a number of local, national, and international grants, fellowships, and awards including a Bush Foundation Artist Fellowship, a James Shannon Leadership Fellowship, and grants from the Trust for Mutual Understanding. Kayim’s work has been presented in the US, London, Cyprus, and Russia. She trained in the US and London and holds an MA in intercultural performance from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, an MFA in theatre directing from the University of Minnesota and BA in theatre and film from the University of Middlesex, London.

    Kathie Battle Sayles, 2014 Rising Star Award Recipient

    WIPSAward_SaylesKathie L. Battle Sayles is the director of development for the Campaign for Legal Aid, the private fundraising arm of Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services, Inc. (SMRLS). Kathie received her BA from Hamline University in 1991 and her law degree in 1999 from the University of Minnesota Law School. She joined SMRLS in 2007 and under her leadership the firm initiated a Senior Law Project that has grown to an annual event involving over 500 low-income seniors. In 2008 she assumed the position of director of development. Through her extensive network within the corporate sector and private bar, Kathie has increased the dollars raised for the Campaign for Legal Aid by 40% and brought greater visibility to the critical work and mission of SMRLS. Her passion for social justice serves as the foundation for her "fearless" approach and her unique, creative fundraising style. Kathie is a member of SMRLS Senior Leadership Team, co-chairs the firm's Racial Justice Committee, and sits on the Ramsey County Bar Association Board of Directors.

    Lori Saroya, 2014 Rising Star Award Recipient

    WIPSAward_SaroyaLori Saroya is the co-founder and executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Minnesota (CAIR-MN), the state’s leading Muslim civil rights and legal advocacy organization. She received her undergraduate degree from St. Catherine University and her Juris Doctor from Hamline University School of Law. While a law student at Hamline, she served as an editorial assistant for the Journal of Law and Religion, was selected for the Inter-American Human Rights Moot Court international competition, and received the prestigious John Wesley Leadership and Service Award. Lori currently serves on the Hamline Law Alumni Board. She is a board member of the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits and a member of the Minnesota Judicial Branch's Committee for Equality and Justice. She was named one of the 2012 Ten Outstanding Young Minnesotans by the Minnesota Jaycees and received the St. Catherine University Alumni Award. She is a 2014 Bush Foundation Leadership Fellow.

    Mindy Manninen, 2013 Rising Star Award Recipient

    WIPSAward_ManninenMindy Manninen has been with Hennepin County Department of Community Corrections and Rehabilitation (DOCCR) for 10 years. She started with Hennepin County as a Sentencing to Service crew leader, working with directly with court ordered clients on community restoration projects. She then moved into supervision in the Community Offender Management Division, working with juvenile justice partners and staff to create a positive work environment for youth. Most recently she has taken on a role as manager of the Train, Coach, and Practice Unit for the DOCCR. In this role, Mindy is working on training efforts to support evidence-based practices and safety training for all DOCCR staff. In 2012, she completed her Master of Arts in Public Administration from Hamline University. Mindy serves as a member of the Hamline University Center for Public Administration and Leadership Advisory Board.

    Mary Van Milligen, 2013 Rising Star Award Recipient

     WIPSAward_Van MilligenMary Van Milligen serves as assistant to the city administrator in the city of Woodbury. Mary has demonstrated a love of community work and public service stretching far back into her youth. She has always been an active volunteer, served two terms with AmeriCorps, and worked for LeadAmerica, a leadership camp for accomplished high school students. Mary currently serves on the International City/County Managers Association Task Force for Women in the Profession. Mary began working in local government as an intern to the village manager in the village of Downers Grove, Illinois while completing her Master in Public Administration at Northern Illinois University. In her current role, Mary manages the city of Woodbury’s performance measurement program, assists with budgeting, and works with the city administrator to provide departments assistance with priority special projects.

    Amanda Varley, 2013 Rising Star Award Recipient

    WIPSAward_VarleyAmanda Varley is an early childhood education specialist at the Minnesota Department of Education. Her duties include co-leading the School Readiness Study, Minnesota’s snapshot of readiness at kindergarten entrance, and supporting the state’s Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge Grant. Amanda has worked as an educational assistant in a middle school with students with emotional and behavioral disorders and as a program evaluation consultant for various nonprofits and organizations. She’s passionate about civic engagement, consensus-building, and cross-sector collaboration. Amanda serves on the board of Young Education Professionals-Twin Cities and committees of Citizens League and YWCA Minneapolis. She is a graduate of Gustavus Adolphus College and has a Master of Public Policy from the Humphrey School of Affairs at the University of Minnesota. Amanda also enjoys cooking, sewing, embroidery, and exploring Minneapolis-Saint Paul.


    We accept nominations for our awards—which are presented at our annual conference—throughout the year, with a deadline of September 15.

    To nominate a rising star or experienced public service leader, please submit a nomination form.

    WIPS Lifetime Achievement Award Nomination Form

    WIPS Rising Star Award Nomination Form