Develop your leadership skills, break down barriers and increase your understanding of local government in the Bloomington Leadership Program. The program is free. Sessions take place September 14 – October 28, on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, 6 – 8 p.m. To learn more or apply, visit blm.mn/leadership.
Meet a few Bloomington Leadership Program alumni
Tai Giwa is a senior site manager with Aeon, a local nonprofit property management company in the Twin Cities. In 2020, Tai became a certified master life coach. Her goal is to empower women to discover their life purpose. Recently, she was invited to serve on VEAP’s board of directors. VEAP is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to create pathways to stronger, more hopeful communities, through access to healthy food, housing stability and supportive services. After graduating from the Bloomington Leadership Program, Giwa was involved in the 2020 Complete Count Committee, the Bloomington housing action team and Southgate Collective Impact.
“A good leader leads by example,” Giwa said. “They set out to make a difference and add value to others’ lives.”
Phil Koktan is a licensed professional engineer. For the past six years he has worked as a structural engineer for Meyer Borgman Johnson in Minneapolis. He is also a consultant to MSP Airport, designing building expansions at Terminal 1. In his free time, he coaches Girls on the Run at Normandale Elementary. After graduating from the Bloomington Leadership Program, Koktan was appointed to the Planning Commission in 2020.
“As a Planning Commission super fan, I couldn’t be more excited to serve our community in this role,” Koktan said. “I would not have had the confidence to apply for a seat on the commission without the encouragement of Bloomington’s Community Outreach and Engagement staff and my colleagues in the Bloomington
Originally from Wisconsin, Chao Moua has lived in Bloomington since 2015. He and his wife have two very active toddlers. They enjoy participating in “all of the great programs Bloomington has to offer” and building relationships with their neighbors. Since graduating from the Bloomington Leadership Program, Moua has served on the Community Budget Advisory Committee.
“It was a great experience that allowed me to use all of the information that I learned in BLP and apply it to our community to find budget solutions that were brought on by the pandemic,” he said. “This was my first time serving my community in a formal way and I take pride in the dedication and work that the CBAC put into finding solutions for our friends and neighbors.”
Casey Speaker has been a Bloomington resident for eight years. She lives right off of Nine Mile Creek with her husband and two kids who enjoy all of the wildlife in their backyard. Speaker is an account manager for SAP Concur, a tech company. In her spare time, she has loved becoming involved in the community and meeting new people. Since graduating from the Bloomington Leadership Program, Speaker co-led a project through a local volunteer group that bought and distributed diverse books throughout local little libraries. The books were purchased by Bloomington’s Human Rights Commission.
“Leadership can take on many forms,” Speaker said. “If you have an idea, start sharing it with others. You may be surprised how you can take an idea you have, connect with others and bring that idea to life through community resources.”
Jessica Linares-Kunkel is originally from Lima, Peru. She has lived in the Twin Cities for 26 years and holds a master’s degree in international management from Mankato State University. She is the senior sales manager for Latin America at Ergotron. She leads strategic efforts to expand distribution markets in Central America, South America and the Caribbean. Since graduating from the Bloomington Leadership Program, Linares-Kunkel has participated in the Latino Community Leaders monthly meetings and joined a couple of peaceful protests organized by the Bloomington Antiracist Coalition. She also served on the Community Budget Advisory Committee in 2020.
“You only need to identify one activity you’d like to do to volunteer,” she said. “Then you will meet great people that will guide you through other activities and so forth. The reward of volunteering is bigger than the time you put into it. You will make new friends, learn how the City works and meet other leaders.”