An assistant Isanti County attorney recently completed a Policy Fellows program focusing on leadership development and problem solving.
Tim Nelson, who has been an assistant Isanti County attorney for just under two years, completed the Policy Fellows program at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs.
Federal District Court Judge John R. Tunheim encouraged Nelson to apply to the program, and County Attorney Jeff Edblad supported it as well. Nelson previously served as a law clerk for Tunheim.
Since its inception in 1990, the Policy Fellows program has trained more than 600 Minnesotans, with former Vice President Walter Mondale and Ambassador Geri Joseph beginning the program.
Program activities are conducted by recognized leaders from business, government and nonprofit organizations, as well as experts from the University of Minnesota and academic institutions around the country.
Between 30 and 40 individuals are selected from across the state to participate in the program each year. Participants include lawyers, business executives, leaders of nonprofit organizations and state and local government officials.
“The program focused on leadership development and was particularly focused on getting people in government, the business community and nonprofits thinking about ways to work together to solve problems,” Nelson said. “The program really encouraged us to look for ways to collaborate when we’re dealing with challenges in our communities that are difficult for any of us to tackle alone.”
Nelson explained the Fellows met once a month for different workshops focused on skills critical to public affairs leadership, such as conflict fluency, adaptive leadership, strategy mapping and stakeholder engagement. Following the workshop, Fellows often met with a notable leader who is active in public affairs work.
Nelson said a couple of highlights from the program included doing a mock legislative session on the floor of the Minnesota House of Representatives and a four-day trip to Washington, D.C., in February.
During the program, Nelson worked closely with four other Fellows.
“It was a lot of fun getting to know the other Fellows,” Nelson said. “There were a lot of really talented people there and I was excited to be able to learn from them. I know I’ll be able to stay in touch with them and that I’ll be able to reach out to them in a professional capacity as well.”
Nelson, who is a 1999 Braham High School graduate as well as a St. Olaf College and Yale Law School graduate, said his parents instilled in him the value of education.
“With this opportunity, I wanted to make sure I learned as much as I could so I could bring back as much as I could to Isanti County,” Nelson said. “It was a real honor to be able to make sure that Isanti County was included and represented in the Fellows program. We can always learn things from the Twin Cities, but they can always learn from us as well.”
Nelson said the program reaffirmed a statement he feels speaks true.
“The idea that ‘none of us are as smart as all of us’ is a saying that I’ve always tried to remember,” Nelson said. “This program helped reinforce that message. In the county attorney’s office, we deal with lot of different agencies, and all of these different agencies are excellent at what they do. There are always more ways that we can learn from each other, to work together in a way that gets the very best out of all of us.”
Nelson said the program was beneficial.
“The program reinforced that the issues we work on at the county are far more important than any of us as individuals,” Nelson said. “Our focus should always be on the public interest and on doing the best we can for the public. It’s important for us to be able to say at the end of the day that we did the very best we could for our communities.”