Who We Are

Heartland Democracy is a civic engagement, educational, and research group operating in the public interest.  We focus on boosting informed participation in democracy, and we make the case for a practical and progressive approach to self-governance.  From the start, we have built Heartland Democracy as an organization bridging scholarship and everyday people.  We are a non-partisan public charity under the IRS’s 501c3 classification.



Mary McKinley, Executive Director 
Mary has been involved with the organization since it began – first as a member of the Advisory Board and then as a consultant, working on development, outreach, organizational strategy, and management. She has a background in nonprofit management and philanthropy, and is committed to Heartland’s mission of teaching and mentoring young people who have a desire to engage in their communities and the greater world.

Kristen Milner, Project Manager 
Principal of Lumity Coaching and Professional Services, Kristen provides project and technology support for Heartland’s initiatives.

Besty Sitkoff, Program Lead
Besty has years of experience running programs and organizations and is principal at Process for Peace, which uses a community-based approach to end cycles of violence. She is the lead on several of Heartland’s parent programs, and she has special knowledge in working with women – especially in immigrant communities.



Sara M. Evans, Chair, is an award-winning historian, professor emerita, and long-time civil rights activist.

Semhar Araia, Secretary, is the founder and director of the Diaspora African Women’s Network (DAWN).

Mariam Mohamed, Member at Large, is a program consultant and facilitator with Intercultural Strategies.

Todd Otis, Vice Chair, is director of community partnerships at Think Small and a former legislator.

Tom Vellenga, Founder, is currently serving as assistant county administrator for Carver County.

Bob Weidman, Treasurer, is a professional fundraising consultant.



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