Earlier this year, Aitkin County Administrator Jessica Seibert decided there was no time like the present to pursue a dream.
Little did she know that Aitkin County Commissioner Anne Marcotte would be beside her during that journey.
Both Seibert and Marcotte were accepted in July into the University of Minnesota Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs Policy Fellows program. The program is regarded as one of the country’s most respected public affairs leadership experiences, and accepts only about 35 leaders from around the state each year.
The nine-month program brings together emerging and mid-career professionals leaders from government, business/industry, and nonprofit organizations. That group then meets once a month as a cohort, and travels to Washington, D.C., for a multi-day study trip.
The program is an initiative of the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance – a group that specializes in politics and policy analysis in the Midwest – and is led by UMN Faculty Director Larry Jacobs, a McKnight Presidential Chair in Public Affairs and also the Walter F. and Joan Mondale Chair for Political Studies.
Seibert said she first heard about the policy fellows program six years ago while she was in graduate school at Metropolitan State University in St. Paul.
“I saw what an amazing opportunity it was,” she said. “I decided then, ‘hey, someday I’m going to apply for that.’”
Seibert said she wanted to wait until she had an administration background – and then found herself waiting for the right time, when her job wasn’t “too busy.”
“Finally, I just decided my job’s going to be busy all the time,” Seibert said. “I decided if I’m going to try, I’m going to try.”
She applied as soon as the program opened applications this year, but didn’t have an idea that Marcotte was interested as well until the commissioner raised the idea with her.
Marcotte sits on the Association of Minnesota Counties Board, and is also an attorney. Seibert explained that’s how the commissioner heard about it.
But when Marcotte found out that Seibert was already applying, Seibert said she almost took a step back to let the administrator have her try.
Seibert encouraged her to apply anyhow.
“They try to get a good mix of rural folks,” Seibert said. “They get a lot of metro folks. I think it’s rare, but exciting that two folks from Aitkin County get to go.”
Marcotte said that she decided to apply this year because it fit her schedule. When she was accepted, she said that the good news didn’t actually hit until later in the day because she was so busy.
“I was relieved, proud and excited,” Marcotte said. She added that she hopes to “grow professionally and personally” in the program, and make strong connections with the others chosen.
“They are very accomplished professionally and very interesting personally,” she said. “I am looking forward to learning, sharing and accomplishing an end project with other policy fellow members.”
The program said it “has deep roots in Minnesota’s civic community, built on core values of bipartisanship, inclusiveness and seeking common good solutions to public challenges,” according to the program’s webpage.