I was the youngest of two daughters born and raised by working class parents in St. Cloud, MN. My father a navy veteran, suffered from mental illness- lacking resources to heal like so many other veterans. My mother, a drafts-woman, struggled as the bread-winner in a predominantly male industry. My adolescence was anything but easy, having moved 13 times by my 15th birthday.
Life has its way of confronting us with the unexpected, and I was no exception to the rule in becoming a mother at the age of seventeen. Shortly after the birth of my daughter, my mother was diagnosed with cancer. Prior to her passing she asked I promise that no matter what challenge stood before me, I would graduate college.
I spent the next ten years working full-time during the day at an oil change shop and attending college part-time in the evenings. In 2008, I obtained a Bachelor of Science in Accounting from the College of St. Scholastica- the commencement ceremony was held on Mother’s Day.
At the age of 24, I made the decision to leave an abusive relationship, and became a single mother of three. I made the choice to become a survivor, not a victim and began my journey of healing in advocating against domestic violence. I have shared my personal journey as a guest speaker for Criminal Justice students at SCSU and at St. Cloud Police Youth Leadership Academy for girls.
Where I am Today
My role as a public servant began 11 years ago with the Minnesota Department of Transportation, Office of Civil Rights. I obtained my Master of Public Administration from Metropolitan State University in 2018, and became the Small Business Contracting Supervisor. In this role I oversee a team of specialists who administer the Disadvantaged Business, Targeted Group Business, and Veteran-owned Business Programs.
Most important is my identity as a mother and a wife. In 2008, and a few years later we became the first of our siblings to live the American Dream in becoming homeowners.
Our marriage was far more than two people falling in love- we each brought children into the marriage. We became a blended family- not a step-family, together we share six children and have a grandchild on the way! Both having come from difficult upbringings we made the decision to become foster parents, for a period of time. We currently reside in Cold Spring with our 3 youngest children ages 12, 16 and 18.
Following in the footsteps of my great grandmother, Grace McDowall, who was a woman far before her time- serving on the St. Cloud City Council, as a member and as president. She went on to lead the family business, McDowall Company, after the death of my great-grandfather. Her determination for success in a predominantly male- run industry, laid the foundation for my mother, Theresa Umerski who was the first female student in industrial tech at Tech Highschool and the first female to graduate the drafting program at St. Cloud Community and Technical College.
I am a Minnesota mom on a mission, to make my community a better place and view life experiences as an opportunity to be the best we can be.
Many of you may recognize me in advocating for my children against bullying and racism. After speaking out publicly, my family became the target of a community member who after stalking my family for 83 days, stole a truck and drove it into our home .
What happened to my family on July 24, 2021, is not the end of the story- it is part of the journey, one that continues to inspire me daily. I recognize every interaction, as an opportunity- and that despite our differences, we are often working towards a common goal.