Today I announced that I am naming two additional co-chairs to lead my Cradle to K Cabinet initiative. Donna Zimmerman and Mikkel Beckmen will join Carolyn Smallwood, who has served as co-chair since the Cabinet was launched in 2014.
Beckmen serves as Director of the Office to End Homelessness for Minneapolis and Hennepin County. Zimmerman serves as Senior Vice President of Government and Community Relations for HealthPartners. They join Smallwood, who serves as Chief Executive Officer of Way to Grow, Inc.
In our collaborative work together on the Cradle to K Cabinet, we have found that the challenges facing children in our City are most often focused in the areas of housing, health care and education. I’m pleased that Mikkel and Donna have agreed to join Carolyn in leading the Cabinet as we continue to address the disparities facing the youngest among us. Each are leaders in their respective fields and are dedicated to the future of Minneapolis, a future we are making brighter through this important work. I’m so grateful for their willingness to serve.
I established the Cradle to K Cabinet in 2014 to eliminate disparities for children in the City of Minneapolis prenatally to three years old.
Research shows that racial disparities can be closed, even prevented, by focused, results-driven interventions in early childhood; and increasingly, cities are making critical investments in early childhood that yield great returns over time. Mayor Hodges’ Cradle to K Cabinet is a collaborative gathering of multi-sector experts, leaders, and parents who are working to prevent disparities by aligning policies, closing gaps, and increasing resources where needed to ensure that all Minneapolis children have a healthy start, are stably housed, and have continuous access to high-quality, child-development-centered child care and early education, regardless of their race, neighborhood, income or family structure.
Donna Zimmerman is the Senior Vice President of Government and Community Relations for HealthPartners, a nonprofit, consumer-governed health care organization in Bloomington, Minnesota. HealthPartners provides health care coverage to 1.5 million members and health care services for more than one million patients each year. She is responsible for developing and managing federal and state public policy and regulatory relationships, community affairs across the organizations and community partnerships to improve population health. She works in all areas of government and reform product strategy, including Medicare, Medicaid and Individual products. She was previously the Director of Government Programs, with responsibility for Medicare and state public programs. Her background is in community health administration and policy, with leadership and executive experience in public and nonprofit sectors. She holds a master’s degree in Public Health from the University of Minnesota and a bachelor’s degree in Nursing from St. Olaf College, Minnesota.
Mikkel Beckmen believes that housing is a human right. Since July of 2013, Mikkel has served as the Director of the Office to End Homelessness for Minneapolis and Hennepin County. The Office to End Homelessness is charged with coordinating the community’s implementation of the 10 year plan to end homelessness, ‘Heading Home Hennepin’. In August of 2016, Mikkel began working in the newly-created position of Housing Coordinator at Hennepin County. Previously, Mikkel served for 8 years as the Executive Director of St. Stephen’s Human Services in Minneapolis. In addition, he spent five years at the Corporation for Supportive Housing assisting communities throughout Minnesota in developing supportive housing and has also managed shelter and housing programs for Catholic Charities and the Salvation Army. Mikkel is a graduate of Luther College and resides in Minneapolis, the town he loves and grew up in.
Carolyn Smallwood has served the last 12 years as the executive leader of Way to Grow, Inc., an early childhood education and elementary nonprofit organization that serves over 2,300 people each year. Prior to Way to Grow, Ms. Smallwood served as Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Twin Cities Rise! and as the Executive Director of the Minnesota Minority Supplier Development Council. Before entering the nonprofit field, Ms. Smallwood was the Director of Supplier Diversity with ADC, The Broadband Company, and held a variety of senior level positions with US Bancorp. During Ms. Smallwood’s corporate career, her influence helped earn ADC national recognition as the “MEED Corporation of the Year,” and “Supplier Advocate of the Year” as well as a designation as one of the “Top 25 Companies in Supplier Diversity.” In addition, Minnesota Monthly magazine awarded Ms. Smallwood, “Small Business Advocate of the Year.” In 2014, the Star Tribune named Carolyn one of the Twin Cities’ “Top African-Americans of Influence.” Throughout her career, she has spent her professional life advocating for women and the underserved. Ms. Smallwood has a passion for work in diverse communities, a solid background in marketing, strong executive experience, an inclusive leadership style and a dynamic presence. She is strategic, thoughtful and recognizes the education of children as a top priority.