20 Under 40: Phil Jents
Occupation: Community relations officer, city of Duluth
What do you actually do? I help people find the resources they want or need within the city of Duluth.
Years in your job: Two
Education: Pursuing a bachelor’s degree at the University of Minnesota Duluth.
Family: Fiancee, Nicole Wess
Community involvement: I serve on the Board of Directors for Head of the Lakes United Way and as a director at-large for the Duluth DFL.
Native of the area? No
What drew you here? People. I lived here from 2005-11 and chose to move back in 2013 because I felt such a deep connection to the people I’d gotten to know — folks in the music scene, the political scene and just generally speaking. I got close to people I knew I wanted to be around. I also had a suspicion that the emotional connections I had to the arts/music community and the Duluth community at-large would grow into something more. Fortunately, it did. I consider Duluth my chosen home and I couldn’t be happier.
Favorite place in the Northland: It really is almost impossible to pick one, but one of my favorite go-to places is Zeitgeist. The staff are amazing, the food is outstanding and it’s a cool hub of arts and community.
How do you spend your free time? I play in a band, The Farsights, which is probably one of my favorite freetime activities. It’s a three-piece band and we’re basically best friends, which makes it fun. Put more accurately, we’re sort of like the students in junior high/high school the teacher has to separate in class so as not to be disruptive. We have a lot of fun together and practices are just as much buddy-hang-time as they are band practice.
How can the Northland retain younger people? Keep doing what we’re doing. People come here and see the lake is gorgeous and that it never gets old when you live here, but you also learn more about what makes this place so attractive: it’s big enough to have the amenities and feel of a big city, and small enough that you feel a part of a close community (and rush hour adds maybe five minutes to your commute, not 65 minutes).
Influential person in your life: Someone on this list, actually: Brynn Sias. I’m biased because she’s also our band’s bass player and a total bestie. She’s one of the hardest-working, intelligent, talented people I know. It never ceases to amaze me that she can seamlessly go from playing a gig on a weeknight with full energy and attention, to working the next day at what I can only imagine is a tremendously difficult job. I look up to her in terms of how she advocates for things she believes in, how she navigates complex ideas around relationships and communication, and her dedication to improve people’s lives in so many different ways (art, advocacy, policy, politics, friendships, etc.). She’s a really, really rad person and has been an extremely influential person in my life.
Three people – dead or alive – you’d like to have dinner with: Paul Wellstone, Hutch Harris and Meryl Streep. I’m assuming this is a dinner with all three at the same time and here’s why I picked them: They’re all inspirational in unique and overlapping ways. The late U.S. Sen. Wellstone is a Minnesota political hero, Hutch Harris is a personal music hero and who wouldn’t want to have dinner with Meryl Streep? She’s a ray of talent!
Five-year goals: Buy a house and get another dog. My 10-year goal is to be driving on nicely paved streets in Duluth.
Where do you see the Twin Ports in the next five to 10 years? We’re going to continue to see more young families moving here and more local college graduates choosing to stay here. I can’t wait to see the neighborhood growth we’ll see throughout the city, especially along the St. Louis River corridor.
What’s the best book you’ve read recently? “The New Jim Crow,” by Michelle Alexander