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.

Ahmed Amin, Empowering U Coach
Ahmed is an amazing high school history teacher in the Minneapolis Public Schools. He is a graduate of Roosevelt High School and holds a masters degree from the University of Minnesota.

Peter Fleck, IT Consultant
Peter helps with all things big and bold on Heartland’s website, and has done so for almost 10 years.  He is a consultant and blogger (@PFHyper) and a former web manager at the University of Minnesota.

Jennifer Griffin-Wiesner, Curriculum Developer 
Jennifer has more than 20 years experience in youth development and curricula planning and design. 

Autumn Lee-Koomen, Photographer and Consultant
Autumn teaches at an alternative high school and an independent business owner at AutumnLeeStudios. She also took the incredible photos on our site. 

Claude Maddox, Fellow and Empowerment Coach
Claude is a Supportive Housing Coordinator at Commonbond, and a former high school principal and social worker.

Kristen Milner, Project Manager 
Principal of Lumity Coaching and Professional Services, Kristen provides project and technology support for Heartland’s initiatives. She is also a technology specialist for Minneapolis Public Schools.


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.

Wesley Walker, Member at Large, is executive director of the Network of Woodlawn in Chicago.

Bob Weidman, Treasurer, is a professional fundraising consultant.


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



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