Irene Fernando comes from a Filipino immigrant family and grew up in Los Angeles. She moved to Minnesota to attend the University of Minnesota where she earned a bachelor’s degree in science in business and a master’s degree in education in youth development leadership.

Fernando co-founded and worked for 11 years with Students Today Leaders Forever, a student group that eventually became a full-fledged non-profit. Fernando was a 2015 Bush Foundation Fellow and currently works at Thrivent Financial. Her community engagement also includes roles as a Carlson School of Management Alumni board member, a member of Minneapolis Global Shapers, and Alpha Gamma Delta Alumnae Chapter President.

She lives in the Harrison neighborhood with her partner and their dog.


“Targeted policing like fare inspection is antithetical to the very purpose of public services. We need a restorative approach to justice. Fare inspection on the light rail isn’t a productive use of resources. Our current policies and practices stem from decades-old decisions; it is time we fundamentally reexamine every layer. Conflict resolution is not an interaction that cops are trained for. To better improve rider experience, these services should be performed by social workers or mental health responders.”
Source: Twin Cities Transit Riders Union Candidates Forum, 5/13/18

“We need to carefully examine our criminal justice system. We need to ask, who is this designed for? Our current approach is not designed for us. So we need community leaders and elected officials who are willing to redesign the system entirely. One of the ways we can do this is through sentencing reform. Through sentencing, there are very severe implications for our communities, for our families, and for our future. We must take into account the root causes of crime so that we can create solutions that put our communities at the center. Our criminal justice system is creating perpetual cycles of poverty, violence, and criminalization, and of course these impact communities of color often more than other communities. When we see impacts in our communities that are larger than others, we must have leaders who are willing to respond with larger action. In my role as county commissioner, I’m interested in building the community we deserve alongside each and every one of you.”
Source: ISAIAH Candidates Forum, 4/29/18

On support of ending cash bail: “When we look at the cash bail system, it is totally criminalizing poverty and criminalizing certain experiences.”
Source: Twin Cities Transit Riders Union Candidates Forum, 5/13/18

“I will do everything I can to prohibit Immigration and Customs Enforcement interaction with our communities. ICE is tearing apart our families and deporting our neighbors. ICE’s mission is a human rights violation that is happening in our own backyard. I’m committed to doing what it takes and building the relationships needed to make sure that all that stops now.”
Source: ISAIAH Candidates Forum, 4/29/18

“Countering Violent Extremism, or CVE, has traditionally been a surveillance program targeting our Muslim neighbors. So in order for us to counter this, we must also counter the hatred and ignorance that is taking place that creates this in the first place. I would work to fund inclusion programs, as well as ensuring that we are decreasing the impact that white nationalist groups are having in our communities. In addition to that, I will do what it takes to make sure that we are building the relationships needed, because work is advanced when we build relationships. This includes with whoever holds the seat of sheriff and that entire office.”
Source: ISAIAH Candidates Forum, 4/29/18

“Overall, we need to invest in housing, density, and improved community spaces. This is a health issue, an economic issue, a safety issue, and a quality of life issue; housing is about creating a stable environment which allows for all other desired outcomes in our community. In addition to funding and taking a people-centered view toward housing policy, we need to make it much harder to evict people, as well as we should work to remove eviction citations from people’s records as they become unfair barriers to a family’s housing stability.”
Source: Twin Cities Transit Riders Union Candidate Survey

“We know that the top cited causes of homelessness are addiction and substance abuse, lack of affordable housing, and untreated mental illness. We need to approach the problem from not only a housing level, but a job and wages level, and a public health level. We need to expand programs for people transitioning out of homelessness, as well as make it easier for people reintegrating into society post-incarceration to have an affordable place to live.”
Source: Twin Cities Transit Riders Union Candidate Survey

On gentrification and displacement: “We need to look at factors that prevent people from losing their housing, particularly eviction. The stats on eviction [are] appalling and it truly changes the actual trajectory of that life and the family and generations to come.”
Source: Twin Cities Transit Riders Union Candidates Forum, 5/13/18

“When we talk about preventing displacement, the goal is to make sure people experience continuity. To me the answer isn’t about funding measures to keep people around after we take over the community. It’s about working with communities who are living here from the beginning and maintaining the integrity of a community’s voice by keeping economic power local to the residents.”
Source: Twin Cities Transit Riders Union Candidate Survey

“We are allowing our most marginalized communities to experience the most harmful effects of climate change.”
Source: Irene Fernando Campaign launch video

“Often when people speak about needing more of X or Y voice at the table, it isn’t because that voice knows more; it’s because no voice singularly knows more, so we need those voices to complete our collective voice. We need to be broad in the ways we speak about diversity but specific in the ways we prioritize diversity. It’s easy to say you have a broad set of backgrounds and vantage points; we must also prioritize racial, ethnic, gender, sexual and age diversities.”
Source: Minnesota Business, 7/27/16

“When we don’t explicitly focus on equity, we implicitly increase economic and racial disparities.”
Source: Candidate’s Facebook page, 11/10/17


The Twin Cities Daily Planet is a flagship media arts project of Twin Cities Media Alliance that amplifies and connects marginalized voices; this voter guide is an extension of the Daily Planet elections coverage. Every year we’re moving towards a possibility of a more diverse legislature. And with it, we hope comes increased opportunities for communities historically shut out of political processes and power to imagine and enact policies to create a Minnesota that benefits all its constituents.