Story by Larissa Wurm
Photo Courtesy Jean Minahan
“One of my good friends said, ‘You keep looking for someone else to run, why don’t you?’” Minahan said. “So I thought, well, I do have the time and a lot of energy. I’m the oldest one running, but I think I have as much energy as any of them.”
Minahan was looking for a woman or minority to run for city council.
“I’ve been looking for city council to have a little more variety than men,” Minahan said. “There hasn’t been a lot of women on the board. I’ve lived in a minority neighborhood for 40 years, the whole time I’ve lived in Des Moines, so I think I have a different perspective on minority issues than others do. I could represent the women, and the seniors, so I decided to give it a shot.”
Minahan retired two years ago after a career in social work.
She graduated from college with a degree in education and after teaching for two years, decided to try social work. Minahan worked for the state as a job service counselor, in the Department of Revenue and as a child protective worker.
“I like social services because I care about people,” Minahan said. “I feel like I can help some people.”
Since retiring, she spends much of her time volunteering with St. Mary’s Family Center, St. Joseph’s Emergency Family Shelter, her neighborhood association and playing on a granny basketball team, The Strutters.
“We actually won the state championship,” Minahan said.
Minahan has also volunteered with the Red Cross during Hurricane Katrina and also with hospice after her husband died of cancer, and with the Animal Rescue League (ARL).
When she isn’t volunteering, Minahan enjoys visiting her mother in Omaha and see her brothers.
Minahan said her own family was her motivation for getting involved in social work.
Minahan said she has never been involved in politics before, providing a new and challenging experience.
“I mean, my other volunteer work has been challenging,” Minahan said. “But this is challenging in a different way.”
Four others are running for the same seat, including Sean Bagniewski, Ellen Brickley, Loren Esse and Bill Gray.
Minahan said being a woman and living in a minority neighborhood for such a long period of time gives her a better understanding of the issues.
“I have the time to put into it,” Minahan said. “Because of my social work background, I know I can listen well. I may not always be able to solve problems, but I can listen, and I can represent the area stronger than it has been in past years.”
“With my social work experiences, I think I can help a lot of different people that maybe don’t feel like they have a voice right now,” Minahan said.
If elected, Minahan plans to address issues like affordable housing and playgrounds for children.
“There are too many people that pay too much of their income to pay for housing,” Minahan said. “They don’t have the money to do other things.”
“Another thing that has really bothered me is big housing complexes not having nice playgrounds,” she said. “Little kids need a place to be outside.”
“I spoke at a senior center, and some of the kids from the housing complex across the street were playing in the lot, and some of them almost got hit,” Minahan said. “I like the fresh air. I’d like to see safe parks and places for adults too to walk, ride bikes and just be outside.”
Minahan encouraged students to get involved with city council elections.
“Students are all part of the city at this time,” Minahan said. “Young people have an influence, and they are the ones that know a lot about the things maybe I don’t.”
She also wants to be sure she keeps up with each of the 14 neighborhoods the ward covers by receiving newsletters from each one.
“Each of the neighborhoods have different issues,” Minahan said. “I would like to try and meet all of those needs. These neighborhoods are important to me.”