CSP names new Labor liaison

Renee Van Nett is no stranger to the Labor Temple, and now you’ll be seeing her here more often as she steps into her new role as Community Services Director at the Head of the Lakes United Way.
With her father as an Ironworker, “I grew up in this building,” she said.
Her background working in nonprofits will serve her well in the positions. She’s worked with programs that addressed homelessness and at-risk youth.
In one of her positions, she organized with AFSCME. “I didn’t know how to do it, but I knew we weren’t treated right,” she said. “I met Alan [Netland] and he helped us navigate it. We didn’t know we had rights.”
After leaving that job, she got more involved with local politics. Ensuring children within the legal and foster care system are protected and centered is one of her passions. “I was furious about how kids are treated, but no one’s going to listen to an Indigenous woman or woman of color unless she has some kind of position,” she said, and others began encouraging her to run for office.
She began looking into how to run a campaign and get elected. After an unsuccessful run for Duluth School Board in 2015, she said made a point of observing and learning more about how campaigns are won.
After running a successful campaign for Duluth City Council in 2016, she said spending time at the Labor Temple was a good feeling. “With the union in my background, it’s already a core of mine,” she said. “I have a backbone of steel because of unions and my dad. Having a union made sure we ate.”
Van Nett said she’s “super stoked” to take on the Community Services position after Rachel Loeffler-Kemp was promoted to another position in the United Way. “I like honoring the legacy of our family in this position,” she said. “I like working with people who are like-minded, who don’t look at me and see a Native woman but just someone who works with them.”
Van Nett has two daughters, who are an inspiration to her work. “I had to survive poverty, but they don’t have to. They get to have other worries besides food or shoes. There are so many things that having this kind of background will do — I love working and I have a strong work ethic. I get energy from working with others.”
In this position, Van Nett will help connect union members and their families with community services, coordinate volunteer efforts and assist with planning events such as the National Letter Carriers Food Drive, Workers Memorial Day and holiday assistance programs.
Van Nett comes from what she describes as a traditional Native family, half from the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, half from the Red Lake, and has lived in Duluth since she was 10. She earned her Associates of Arts degree from the Leech Lake Tribal College and a Bachelor of Arts in Organizational Management and Communications from Concordia University.
“Helping people is challenging and exciting, but I have a good crew to work with,” Van Nett said. After a bout with cancer, she said she’s ready to do work that is both fun and rewarding.

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