Latina Leaders from the Minnesota State Government
Local government can have the most felt impact on our communities. Therefore, it is crucial that our communities are well represented in government for us to thrive. We are proud to know that our Latino community of Minnesota is being represented in local government by passionate leaders that understand our needs and advocate for us. In this article we have focused on women leaders from our community in light of women’s history month, which is in March.
Below we highlight Latina leaders working in the Minnesota State Government, that are driving positive change in our state while also advocating for Latinos in Minnesota. We seek to not only recognize our leaders and their valuable contributions, but to also inspire and motivate others in our community to become great leaders themselves.
Adriana Cerrillo | Director, Board of Education
As a mother, activist, and small business owner, Adriana has dedicated her life to helping disadvantaged communities. On the School Board, Adriana is a tireless advocate for our children as she leads the movement for equity in Minneapolis Public Schools. This is especially important in Minnesota when we have the highest disparities in education comparing Latino children and American children.
Adriana is developing innovative and community-driven strategies that get to the root of inequality in education. As she fights for equity, Adriana fights for a future in which our children can experience education for what it should be—a site of care, a source of empowerment, and a tool for their success.
Alondra Cano | Minneapolis City Council Member
Before her election to the City Council, Alondra served as a legislative aide to then Minneapolis City Council Vice-President Robert Lilligren and she managed the Multilingual Communications Division at the Minneapolis Public Schools.
Alondra was an activist, a community organizer, and served as Associate Director of the Minnesota Immigrant Freedom Network. At the Freedom Network, Alondra worked on a wide range of social and racial equity issues facing Latino immigrants and undocumented students. Alondra advocated for comprehensive immigration reform, and she worked to enact the Minnesota Dream Act at the Minnesota Legislature. The Dream Act gives undocumented Latino students better access to higher education in Minnesota.
“My entire life, I’ve worked on efforts to make sure the diverse communities of Minneapolis and Minnesota were engaged, empowered and served by the various institutions that govern us. I’m humbled. I’m excited. I’m ready to serve.” – Alondra Cano
Amáda Márquez Simula | Mayor, City of Columbia Heights
Amáda is widely recognized as an active community leader in Columbia Heights. She is a bold advocate for racial justice and has been on the front line in the fight for sustainability, women’s rights, and LGBTQ equality. She has been Columbia Heights Public Schools Community Education Advisory Board Member, Manager of the Columbia Heights Public Schools Adult Enrichment & Senior Program, Neighborhood Watch Block Captain, 2017 Columbia Heights Humanitarian of the Year, among other volunteer work.
As Mayor, Amáda is working tirelessly to ensure that her community thrives and is resilient and that everyone is treated with dignity and respect. As a Latina, she is the city’s first non-white elected official.
Maria Regan Gonzalez | Mayor, City of Richfield
Maria Regan Gonzalez is part of a movement to change the face of politics as the first Latina Mayor in in the Midwest and the state of Minnesota. Recognized as a 2018 Change maker by the Minnesota Women’s Press, 2019 Bush Foundation Fellow and 2021 YWCA Woman of Power, Maria is committed to advancing racial and social justice issues by bringing people together to improve health outcomes and create more equitable systems and policies. Maria is known for her authentic leadership style and connecting the needs of the community to corporate strategy and the work of local government.
Among her achievements Maria is most proud of is her role as a co-founder of La Red Latina de Educacion Temprana, a network of over 350 Spanish speaking childcare providers working to change Minnesota’s early childhood system and grow healthy and school ready children.
Luz Maria Frias | Deputy Attorney General, Minnesota State
Luz Maria Frias holds Master’s and Juris Doctor Degrees from the University of Iowa. She has a long history of leadership in the community, including government, non-profits and philanthropy. Luz Maria is a lawyer and an experienced mediator and has delivered over 100 presentations on the issues of Implicit Bias, diversity within the courts; diversity issues in the mediation process; cross-cultural negotiation issues; immigration public policy reform; and the use of interpreters within the legal system. Her goal, she says, is to build an equitable community that works for everyone. She is currently serving as Deputy Attorney General working with the Attorney General Keith Ellison.
Melisa Lopez Franzen | Minnesota State Senator
Senator Melisa López Franzen brings a breadth of experience to Saint Paul. Serving on the Finance, Health and Human Services Finance and Policy Committee, and the Transportation Finance Committee, her work at the Capitol extends to every corner of Minnesota, impacting the lives of thousands for the better. Her main interests remain in addressing the health care delivery system so it serves everyone regardless of income and race. She has led on controversial issues such as prior authorization reform and legalization of recreational cannabis.
Senator López Franzen is also a member of the Task Force on Medical Cannabis Therapeutic Research and has previously served on the Tax Committee, Higher Education Finance Committee, K-12 Education Policy Committee, and the Capitol Area Architectural and Planning Board
“The change we want to see — and the values we must defend — will rely on the work we do together. Our movement is only as strong as our work. As a mother, a business owner, your neighbor, and the proud State Senator of District 49, I am ready to continue our fight ahead”.
Patricia Torres Ray | Minnesota State Senator
Patricia Torres Ray is a Colombian-American politician and member of the Minnesota Senate. As member of the Minnesota Democratic–Farmer–Labor Party, she represents District 63, which includes portions of southeastern Minneapolis and eastern Richfield in Hennepin County in the Twin Cities metropolitan area. She was the first known Hispanic woman to serve in the Minnesota Senate. Special Legislative Concerns: education, health and human services, environment, economic development.
Rosa Tock | Executive Director, Minnesota Council on Latino Affairs (MCLA)
Rosa is originally from Guatemala, she came to Minnesota as a Fulbright fellow at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, where she earned a Master’s degree in Public Policy in 2003. Rosa’s former professional experience includes policy analysis, research, engagement with diverse communities, and management in government, non-profits and academia. Based on her personal experience as an immigrant, and as a studious observer of Latin America, she adds the skills and cultural relevant understanding to support issues pertaining to the Latinx communities in the state. Her area of focus for MCLA is on health issues with a racial equity lens. She worked as Legislative Director for the Minnesota Chicano Latino Affairs Council (CLAC) conducting research, updating data about the Latino community, and implementing the council’s legislative agenda by engaging state legislators on key legislation. She was also the Interim Executive Director for the agency. Previously, she worked as a bilingual human rights specialist for the City of Saint Paul in the Human Rights Department.
The purpose of local government is to provide an organized system where councils exercise their power and responsibilities to work together for peace, order and good governance of their municipal districts. We are thankful for the great work that these Latina leaders are doing for our community and for the state.