New executive director arrives in Southeast Como

University alumnus Alex Farrell is taking on executive director role for the neighborhood association while pursing his master’s degree.

University graduate and new executive director of the Southeast Como Improvement Association, Alex Farrell, poses for a photo in Van Cleve Park on Tuesday, July 10.

Easton Green

University graduate and new executive director of the Southeast Como Improvement Association, Alex Farrell, poses for a photo in Van Cleve Park on Tuesday, July 10.

J.D. Duggan

After nearly three months without an executive director, Southeast Como Improvement Association’s hunt to fill the position has landed on a University of Minnesota alumnus.

Alex Farrell graduated from the University with a bachelor of arts degree in anthropology and lived in the Southeast Como neighborhood for two years while he was an undergraduate student. Farrell hopes to use his previous experience in managing grants, fundraising and event planning to build upon SECIA’s work while he returns to the University for graduate school.

As a student in the neighborhood, Farrell was familiar with the transitory state of student renters. After returning to the area to pursue a master’s degree in project management, he is interested in seeing the perspective of long-time residents.

“I thought [Como] was a great place to live. It’s got its own feel, like all the different neighborhoods in Minneapolis,” Farrell said. “I think Como is unique in that it’s got a nice balance of local residents, people who have lived there for a very long time, and… students who are… kind of passing through.”

SECIA members are passionate about creating a welcoming atmosphere, and the neighborhood is now housing more residents from different communities and cultures, he said. He looks forward to his involvement with this developing landscape.

Farrell was a volunteer coordinator in Guatemala after graduation, working closely with indigenous women at a small nonprofit to fundraise and coordinate daily activities.

“He’s worked in multiple other kind of community projects,” said Cody Hoerning, SECIA hiring committee member. “He traveled abroad… [and] organized some community projects when he was abroad.”

Following his work in Guatemala, Farrell moved to New York to work with United Way, where he operated health initiatives and organized meetings. He was involved in preparation and recovery with Hurricane Sandy relief efforts as chair of the county’s disaster coalition.

“He brought a lot of energy and he also came very well-prepared and organized, and that’s something that’s really important for an executive director,” Hoerning said.

Most recently, Farrell worked for the Minnesota Disability Law Center working in grants management and advocacy. He hopes this experience will allow him to work closely with the volunteer base at SECIA to secure more funding and engagement for the organization.

Karl Smith, president of SECIA, said many on SECIA’s hiring committee viewed him as the best candidate.

“Some people thought he was the best choice… mostly because of his experience and the commitment he was willing to make,” Smith said.