New Met Council woman has strong ties to University area

Metropolitan Council member Cara Letofsky poses near the light rail stop on Washington on Sunday.  Letofsky is a big supporter of the metro transit system and is on the Transportation Committee.

Holly Peterson

Metropolitan Council member Cara Letofsky poses near the light rail stop on Washington on Sunday. Letofsky is a big supporter of the metro transit system and is on the Transportation Committee.

Benjamin Farniok

A woman with strong ties to communities surrounding the University of Minnesota is now overseeing transportation across the metro area.
 
Cara Letofsky became a member of the Metropolitan Council, representing the University and much of the surrounding area last month.
 
She has been a prominent figure in the Minneapolis community for more than 20 years, and she plans to bring her experience to her role as the council’s District 8 
representative.
 
“I’m excited about her. I think she is gonna be great,” Metropolitan Council Chair Adam Duininck said.
 
Duininck said he has faith in the council’s new addition, who serves on the committees for auditing, transportation and community development.
 
“She might tell you that she doesn’t have as much experience in transportation as community development,” Duininck said, “[But] it’s a steep learning curve, and she’ll pick it up quick.”
 
Letofsky said she hopes to make improvements to the Fifth Street pedestrian bridge that runs over I-35W and expand affordable housing in her district. 
 
She started working as a community director in south Minneapolis in 1993. In 2001, she started the City of Lakes Community Land Trust, an organization that helps make housing affordable for low-income families and first-time homebuyers. 
 
The nonprofit partnered with the University in 2013 to help increase the number of faculty members who live near the school.
 
Jeff Washburne, executive director of the land trust, said Letofsky helped bridge the gap between community members and the government. He said she had a big hand in creating the organization.
 
“She was out meeting with a lot of folks, building a case for why we could have this and what it would look like,” Washburne said.
 
Letofsky created her own consulting firm, Mill City Consulting, which serves as a liaison between government officials and the public and helps organize various community events.
 
Last summer, Letofsky’s firm was contracted by the Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association to organize the Dinkytown Business Alliance’s transition from the Dinkytown Business Association — a task consisting of encouraging local businesses to join the DBA and attract customers to the area.
 
DBA president Mike Mulrooney said Letofsky also helped give the group direction under its new name.
 
Currently, her tasks boil down to lending business advice to the group and connecting members with government officials.
 
“None of us as board members really had time to set that up. She just picked it up and ran with it,” Mulrooney said. 
 
One of the projects Letofsky helped put together was a plan to connect the bike lane along Fourth Street Southeast that drops off between 15th and 13th avenues southeast in Dinkytown.
 
“She has been so organized and so diligent and so methodical in getting everything done,” Mulrooney said. “This organization wouldn’t be where it’s at or where it’s going without her assistance.”
 
Letofsky is also the president of the board of directors for the Hennepin History Museum, where she has focused on securing funding and attention for the museum, its executive director, Cedar Imboden Phillips, said.
 
“She is the fearless head of our board of directors,” Phillips said. “She has played a key role this last year in building the board up and situating the museum in a position to really move forward.”
 
Letofsky said she enjoys her work with the museum.
 
“I basically try to convince people to hire me to do the things that I want to do,” Letofsky said.