Ashley Grimm - Age: 35, St. Louis County
What do you do professionally?
I represent the western half of Duluth as the 3rd District St. Louis County Commissioner. I’m the chair of Central Management and Intergovernmental for the board and was the chair of Public Safety for the past two years.
How are you involved in the community? Do you volunteer with any organizations?
I like working on projects that help kids have happy, healthy childhoods. We can actually make a dent in mental health, graduation rates and community safety if we support our kids fully. I volunteer on the Far West Kidz Fest planning committee and Spirit Valley Center for Youth and the Community Wellness team, which will hopefully create a larger and updated space for the Valley Youth Center. I recently served on nonprofit boards including Community Action Duluth and Mentor North. I carve out a lot of my time for my commissioner work, which is my dream job. I work with community members on things big and small, from helping navigate tree removal to securing childcare and housing funding. More than voting on Tuesdays, it’s about reaching out to community members, helping them build proposals, organize and get movement on what we really need in our neighborhoods. Big things are possible, and local governments can and should make that easier, not harder.
What is important to you?
Well, I imagine I’m not alone in saying this, but family. My mom and dad, Kim and Severt, who always encourage me to dream big; my sister, Helmi, who is an amazing nurse and mom; my hilarious and loving nieces and nephew, Wren, Zay, Aurora and Olin; and my husband, Luke, who is an absolute blast to do life with. Politically, helping build public trust back in local politics and focus on our common struggle. We’ve heard a lot of the same promises for a long time, so it’s really important to show people through action that electeds can support our community centers, our neighborhoods, our environment, and our kids and neighbors. We can dream big. And we can realize that we aren’t the obstacles in each other’s way. The reason one hard-working person is struggling isn’t the hard-working person next to them making minimum wage. It truly isn’t. And if we take the money out of politics and focus on the needs of people we represent, we can actually get where we need to go.
How do you spend your free time?
Talking too much about local politics. But I endeavor to spend it more with family, playing board games, kayaking, swing dancing, watching movies (I’m a sucker for horror) and going to the dog park with my dog, Murphy.
Favorite things about living and working in the Northland?
I love how many ways there are to find people who are into the same things as you, from theater to Nerd Nite (hopefully back soon!) to politics. I love the lake and river. I love living in Denfeld and the feel of our neighborhoods. I grew up in Barnum, and like that it feels like there are small towns within this larger city.
What advice would you give to up-and-coming professionals?
Trust your instincts. Push against things you know aren’t right, and don’t doubt yourself when the system pushes back; that’s all part of it. When there’s an opportunity you want, take the leap. If you’re questioning whether you’re qualified, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re not. It means you take the responsibility seriously, and you are possibly being overly critical of yourself. And join a city commission or county committee. You’ll learn a lot.
Favorite moment in life?
I like the small ones actually. One significant one that comes to mind, though, is gathering during the pandemic shutdown with my parents and husband to watch the election results at my place. I’m certain from how much my parents emphasized loving me no matter what and effort being the thing that really counts that they thought I was going to lose. It meant a lot to have them and my husband there at my side (and team online!) for that big night.
What is your favorite motivational quote?
‘I believe we can be serious and optimistic. I believe we can recognize the overwhelming odds against us and forge coalitions that overcome the odds. The point of beginning is not political strategy. It is a shared sense of necessity, an understanding that we must act.’ ~ Bernie Sanders
Anything else you want to add?
I want to say thank you to the people who nominated me and to the community members I’ve had the pleasure of working with.