Rafael E. Ortega, District 5
Serving citizens in the following communities:
Saint Paul neighborhoods of Capitol Heights, Dayton's Bluff, Downtown, Highland, Macalester Groveland, Railroad Island, West Seventh and West Side.
Rafael grew up in a tough neighborhood in New York City and learned first-hand the importance of transit, education and libraries in making it possible for everyone to contribute to society. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Fordham University in New York City and came to Minnesota to earn his Master's degree in Social Work at the University of Minnesota in 1978.
He was a front-line social worker before becoming an Outreach Director for Minnesota Council of Churches. From 1984 to 1994, Ortega was Executive Director of CLUES (Communidades Latinas Unidas en Servicio), a Twin Cities social service agency that grew under his leadership from a $100,000 organization to one with a $3 million budget serving more than 15,000 clients. He is still a licensed social worker.
Rafael E. Ortega became the first member of a minority group to be elected to the Ramsey County Board and the first Latino elected to a County Board in Minnesota in 1994. He has been elected by a wide majority in every election since then. He served as Chair of the Board from 2012 through 2013. He is now serving his third term as the Chair of the Regional Rail Authority.
Commissioner Ortega is focused on protecting Ramsey County’s most vulnerable residents, building a great transportation network in Minnesota, and making sure that Ramsey County delivers the best service in a cost-effective way. As Chair of the Facilities Commission from 2001-2012, he took the lead on making county facilities fuel-efficient and environmentally sound. He has also become a recognized leader on transit in the metro area over his time on the County Board, particularly in his role as Chair of the Regional Rail Authority from 1997-1999, 2002-2007 and since 2014. He has frequently spoken on MPR and contributed to the Star Tribune and Pioneer Press. His work, and the work of all the communities and leaders who have been pushing for the same thing, has paid off for Ramsey County. In 2014, he received the Progress Minnesota Lifetime Achievement Award from Finance and Commerce newspaper for his work on job creation, business development, and the overall economic health of the Twin Cities and the entire state.
His top priorities currently are to build a great Riverview Corridor transitway connecting Union Depot with MSP International Airport and the Mall of America and to get the 427-acre Rice Creek Commons site redeveloped and back on the tax rolls for the first time in a generation.