Vote November 5th 2024

Laurel Deneen is running for ​Columbia Heights City Council

Why I am running

for City Council

Since I became a resident, our city's tight-knit and ​diverse community has warmly welcomed my family, ​giving us the chance to become actively involved. I've ​had the privilege of meeting many residents and ​discussing what matters to them, both through my ​volunteer activities and in my role as a city planning ​commissioner. As Columbia Heights grows, I strongly ​believe in the importance of equitable and sustainable ​development. It's thrilling to see our area moving ​towards the future, but it's crucial that we include our ​family-owned businesses and residents in these ​transformative discussions. My goal is to ensure that ​our local businesses can thrive and expand, and that ​our residents have access to both affordable and ​varied housing options. I am committed to being a ​part of making this vision a reality.

My decision to run for City Council stems from my ​unwavering commitment to improving the lives of ​Columbia Heights residents. My unique blend of ​professional expertise, community involvement, and ​personal dedication positions me as a candidate ​deeply invested in the city’s future.

Professional and ​Purposeful

Championing Equitable and Sustainable Development

I am committed to driving equitable and sustainable development in ​Columbia Heights. It's crucial for me to ensure that our community's ​growth benefits everyone. This means supporting our local family-​owned businesses and advocating for a range of affordable housing ​options. I believe in balancing our city's development with ​maintaining its unique character.

Enhancing Community Involvement

I strongly believe in the power of community involvement. As a ​member of the City Council, I will work towards increasing resident ​participation in city planning and local events. It's important to me ​that every voice is heard and that we all have a stake in shaping the ​future of our city.

Supporting Local Business Growth

Supporting the growth and sustainability of local businesses in ​Columbia Heights is a key priority for me. I aim to create an ​environment where these businesses can thrive and adapt. ​Implementing supportive policies and initiatives will be at the ​forefront of my efforts to keep our local economy vibrant and ​resilient.

Focusing on Education and Youth Programs

My volunteer work has shown me the importance of strong ​education and youth programs. As part of the City Council, I will ​advocate for enhancing these programs. It's essential that we ​provide our children and young people with the best opportunities ​for learning and personal growth, building a strong foundation for ​the future of our community.

Meet Laurel

Laurel Deneen's vision for Columbia Heights is centered ​around equitable and sustainable development, ​ensuring that family-owned businesses and residents ​are key players in the city's future growth. She ​advocates for maintaining the vitality of local ​businesses and expanding diverse housing ​opportunities. Her commitment to the community is ​evident through her involvement in organizing Columbia ​Heights PRIDE, The Mayor's Monarch Festival, and ​volunteering at Valley View Elementary School with ​Every Meal. Serving on the Columbia Heights City ​Planning Commission, she applies her professional ​expertise to important city development issues.

Deeply rooted in the Kordiak Park neighborhood with ​her husband Mike and their pets, Laurel's personal life ​reflects her strong connection to the community. Her ​interests in design and geek culture further ​demonstrate her diverse engagement with community ​activities. Her decision to run for City Council springs ​from a deep commitment to enhancing the lives of ​Columbia Heights residents, combining her professional ​skills, community engagement, and personal dedication ​to make a lasting impact on the city's future.

Building Together: A Stronger, ​Inclusive Columbia Heights!


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Professional Background

Laurel Deneen's tenure with the Metropolitan Council, specifically on Metro Transit Light Rail projects, has ​uniquely positioned her as an ideal candidate for a city council position. Her extensive experience in this role ​has honed her expertise in crucial areas such as infrastructure improvement, economic development, and ​funding management.

Having actively participated in transit projects, Laurel has contributed to the enhancement of the city's ​infrastructure, contributing to its growth and connectivity. Her involvement in economic development initiatives ​associated with these projects underscores her commitment to creating job opportunities and attracting ​businesses to the area.

A standout aspect of Laurel's career is her adept handling of collaboration with other municipalities and ​navigating right-of-way matters. These experiences have not only showcased her diplomatic and leadership ​skills but have also given her a unique perspective on fostering inter-community relationships. The collaborative ​nature of transit projects often involves intricate coordination with diverse stakeholders, highlighting Laurel's ​ability to work effectively with various entities to achieve shared goals.

Moreover, Laurel's role in funding management within the Metropolitan Council demonstrates her financial ​acumen and resourcefulness. Successfully managing contracts and overseeing budget allocations for transit ​projects underscores her commitment to responsible financial stewardship.

Beyond the technical aspects of her work, Laurel's engagement with local communities, particularly in matters ​related to right-of-way, reflects her dedication to ensuring that the voices and concerns of residents are heard ​and addressed. This community-centric approach aligns with the core responsibilities of a city council person, ​emphasizing Laurel's commitment to representing and advocating for the interests of her constituents.


“Laurel is a steadfast volunteer and organizer in ​Columbia Heights and has proven over and over ​again that she shows up and does the hard work. ​As the city continues to move in an exciting ​direction, Laurel would be a fantastic representative ​of the community with her thoughtful, inclusive, and ​forward-thinking mindset. I would be honored to ​collaborate with Laurel on the council and continue ​moving Heights forward!”

Councilmember Justice Spriggs, Columbia Heights.

“Laurel is a fantastic leader and volunteer in our ​city. Her experience on our Planning Commission ​and working with MetroTransit make her a great ​choice for Columbia Heights City Council. Laurel ​loves our city and makes awesome events like ​Columbia Heights Pride and the Monarch Festival ​happen. I am proud to endorse Laurel!”

Councilmember Rachel James, Columbia Heights.

“I am pleased to endorse Laurel Deneen for the ​Columbia Heights City Council. Laurel has ​consistently proven herself as a dedicated and ​passionate advocate for our community, exhibiting an ​unwavering commitment to making our city a better ​place for all.

Laurel’s exceptional dedication is evident through her ​involvement in various community initiatives. Serving ​on the Planning Commission and being an integral ​member of HeightsNEXT showcase her willingness to ​take on crucial responsibilities for the betterment of ​our city. Her selfless contributions, including ​volunteerism at events such as the Columbia Heights ​Pride and Monarch festivals, exemplify her genuine ​care for our community’s well-being.

What sets Laurel apart is her profound dedication to ​creating an equitable city and fostering a community ​that embraces diversity. Her passion for social justice ​and understanding of the extensive research and ​effort required to effect positive change make her an ​invaluable asset to any council.

I wholeheartedly believe that Laurel Deneen’s ​unwavering commitment, passion, and experience ​make her an excellent candidate for the Columbia ​Heights City Council. Her vision aligns seamlessly ​with the ongoing efforts to establish a more equitable, ​socially conscious, and progressive council. I am ​confident that Laurel will be an exceptional partner in ​our shared mission to create a brighter future for all ​residents of Columbia Heights.”

Mayor Amáda Márquez-Simula, Columbia Heights.

Working with Laurel on the Planning Commission has been a ​pleasure. She does her homework on every matter that hits ​our desk, pushes to get the best out of every decision and ​truly cares about bringing everyone in Heights into the ​process. She’s set a wonderful example for anybody thinking ​about getting involved in our city.

Over the years, she’s learned valuable insight about how our ​city functions and what redevelopments are in the pipeline. ​With her background at the Metropolitan Council she ​understands what it takes to make Columbia Heights a more ​attractive place for all residents and business owners—and ​will be an excellent addition to the City Council.

Tom Kaiser - City Planning Commissioner

I am proud to endorse Laurel Deneen for Columbia ​Heights Council. She is a community leader with the ​many community events she’s helped plan for the ​enrichment of everyone in Columbia Heights. She is ​kind, thoughtful, prepared and organized. Laurel's ​time on the planning commission these past few ​years have proven her passion and desire for ​sustainable and equitable development. Laurel will ​take that knowledge with her to the council. I know ​she will work hard for everyone in our city with her ​decisions on the council. I know she wants to move ​Heights forward with ethical, equitable ​representation. Please join me in voting for Laurel ​Deneen for Columbia Heights City Council.

Jennifer Pyper-Muno, She/Her

27 year resident and small business owner in ​Columbia Heights


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1617 Innsbr​uck Pkwy W

Columbia Heights,​ MN 55421


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Laurel Deneen Brings

Personal Experience to the Future of Heights

By Tom Kaiser

Laurel Deneen is directly plugged into the future of Twin Cities transit and infrastructure, and is campaigning for a seat on the Columbia ​Heights City Council to bring her experience to the table in an official, elected capacity.

Deneen has worked at the Metropolitan Council for nearly a decade. In her role at the regional body tasked with planning, maintaining ​and building Twin Cities transit and other critical infrastructure, she coordinates the many outside contractors and in-house teams ​building the Green Line light-rail extension from downtown Minneapolis to Eden Prairie.

While she doesn’t foresee trains running down Central Avenue—especially with F-line rapid transit coming soon—the candidate believes ​our first-ring city is at a significant crossroads with the upcoming rebuilds of Central and 40th Avenue, as well as redevelopment of the ​former Rainbow and Medtronic sites.

During an interview at their home west of Kordiak Park, Deneen and her husband Mike said they loved their new hometown enough to ​lure her parents here from Florida. Renting a house just across the park, Deneen’s parents are both tied to transit, as well. Her mother ​drives a bus for Metro Mobility and her father takes the #10 bus to his job at a downtown law firm.

Asked why everybody should care about transportation, not just bicyclists or regular bus users, Deneen said there are countless ways ​reliable infrastructure can help people in a pinch, bridge the gap for someone moving into a new life stage, and make sure nobody is ​stranded during our frigid winters.

“It comes down to empathy,” she added, noting that she and her husband love riding the A-line rapid bus line to Allianz Stadium for ​Loons games.

“I’ve had times where I worked at a hotel downtown and rode the bus home at 11:30 every night,” she said. “If you want your community ​to thrive, you need to be able to get back and forth to work easily.”

Aiming for accessibility

As a current member of the Columbia Heights Planning Commission, Deneen praised the city’s staff and the many elected officials who ​are easily accessible and go out of their way to engage everybody in the municipal process.

“I’ll be honest, when I lived in Minneapolis, I don’t know that I could have named my city councilperson because it’s so big and it was so ​nebulous to me,” she said. “I didn’t realize how much that touches my life as a citizen where I was living, and here I feel that they want ​people to come in and be involved. That was one of the first things I learned when I started getting involved in the community.”

Beyond her work on the Planning Commission, Deneen and her husband are enthusiastic gamers, frequent Disney World visitors and are ​currently pairing Mike’s technology talents with her furniture refinishing skills to rebuild a vintage radio cabinet.

With two dogs and a cat in earshot, we covered a range of Heights-specific topics, including throwing her hat into the ring for a ​particularly heated election centering around the possible recall of current city council member K.T. Jacobs.

The especially compressed timeline of this election is particularly difficult as a candidate, noting that early voting runs through Monday, ​February 12. She added that what transpired with Jacobs is “central” to why she’s running.

“One of the things that you really need to understand if you are going to be an elected official is that you are there to represent the ​people who live in your community,” she added. “The people in your community have decided that what you have done is not ​acceptable and they would rather that you step down.”

Deneen said she and many others are feeling “K.T. fatigue,” and noted that the situation resulting from Jacobs’ behavior has been a ​distraction “from the things we actually need to get done” in our city.

“What she’s doing is creating this legacy for herself where no one will remember any of the good that she has done and will only ​associate her with this one incident,” Deneen said. “I don’t think that’s good for our city, I don’t think it’s good for her, and I don’t think ​it’s healthy.”

Seeking net positives

With redevelopments of the former Rainbow grocery site and the vacant Medtronic site by Target, Deneen said she’s focused on ​ensuring that proposals coming from developers will be net positives for the city and its finances.

Asked for specific attributes she’ll be encouraging with each project, she pointed to environmental sustainability, the need for ​affordable housing and making sure the city is able to maintain its “homey” appeal as a transitional city between Minneapolis and the ​more sparsely populated suburbs north of Columbia Heights.

“Design will be important,” she emphasized. “When we talk about high density and townhomes that are proposed for both sites, I’d love ​to see something that looks very residential” like some of what she sees in the North Loop” with ground-floor walk-ups and higher ​density living above.

Beyond large-scale developments, she stressed that the redesign of 40th Avenue and Central Avenue are key opportunities to replace ​concrete with expanded green space, improve environmental resilience, while creating a better environment for drivers, walkers and ​anyone traveling by bike.

Deneen differs from some local officials pushing to treat Central Avenue as our city’s main street, noting that she sees 40th as our most ​important corridor—and that any rebuilt Central will still be a state highway responsible for carrying a significant amount of traffic.

“I want to make sure that we’re improving it in ways that make sense and will facilitate people getting through there when they need to, ​but also beautify our city and make it more of a destination rather than a pass-through,” she added. “So that’s going to be a balancing ​act.”

Getting back to her campaign to drive traffic for absentee voting currently underway at city hall, Deneen stressed that she aspires to be ​an elected official in the mold of Mayor Amada Márquez Simula whom she described as somebody who “gets better the more you hang ​out with her.”

“Amada is so inviting, and she does so much for our community,” Deneen said, adding that the mayor is also her campaign manager. ​“She wants us to be a caring and empathetic community, and I don’t know that without her encouragement and guidance that I would be ​as calm as I am going into this election.”

That brand of selfless leadership and community building is part of what motivated her to run for office, which is something she never ​expected to do in her younger years down in Minneapolis.

“When you feel ownership in where you live, it just makes it like why would I move [away] from here?” Deneen added. “I know I can ​impact where I live in positive ways. Being in a smaller city makes it more accessible to make that impact and really be proud of the work ​you do.”

2023 - Paid for by Laurel Deneen for Columbia Heights City Council