Called to Change

Dan Gregory August 13, 2019

by Dennis Sanders, Content Specialist

“My faith has called me to do this work. And so I truly believe that as a Christian, one of the things we’re meant to do is help everyone.”

The work that Matt Pletcher, a member of Mt. Olivet Lutheran Church of Plymouth, is called to do is to be a part of the Commissioner Strategy Team, the group doing behind-the-scenes work to make the Commissioner Conversations a success.

Held throughout the summer, the Commissioner Conversations are an opportunity for members of the collaborative to hear Hennepin County Commissioners discuss the county’s role and the potential to be an ally in our work with the legislature. The Commissioner Strategy Team tries to build the initial relationship with the county commissioners, learning their stance on affordable housing issues such as supportive housing and rental assistance and ultimately inviting them to a public conversation, the Commissioner Conversations.

Matt believes his being on the Commissioner Strategy Team is fulfilling a calling to use his passions for the greater good. “A call to policy work, more than anything else, is one of the draws for me,” Matt says. “I wanted to work with policy, so when I heard about this, it was an opportunity to join.”

Matt’s journey to the Commissioner Strategy Team began with an invitation to join his congregation’s Beacon Leadership Team. He enthusiastically led a session of Power Surge, Beacon’s in-congregation tool designed to help congregants learn the basics about what Beacon does. That led to volunteering on what later became the Commissioner Strategy Team. The team discerned what government entity besides the state legislature could be an ally on issues of housing. “We knew that the (state) legislature is one source, but there must be others,” Matt says. The team decided it made sense to ally with the state’s largest county because that would influence the rest of the state on the issue of affordable housing. “We started thinking about the Met Council and Hennepin County Commission, and after doing a bit of research, we decided Hennepin County was the better path with strategizing.”

Matt’s time with the commissioners gives him the sense they want to do the right thing when it comes to affordable housing. How that gets done is a challenge. “They all have hearts and they want to do right by people. What that looks like at an institutional level is extremely different. But you have to get the commissioner to focus on the main question: do you truly believe everyone deserves a home? If the answer is yes, which it is most of the time, what do you want to do to solve that problem?”

The commissioners’ response to Matt’s question has not always been clear. “You know in these forums, we are trying to nail them down on specifics, but they aren’t putting necessarily concrete stuff out there,” Matt says. However, he still has hope that the conversations will make an impact. “My hope is that these conversations will make housing a greater priority.”

The whole point of both the team and the Commissioner Conversation is to create relationships with the Commissioners. Matt believes his time on the Commissioner Strategy Team will create durable relationships with the commissioners in the long run, which could lead to more affordable housing in Hennepin County. “I’ve run into a couple of the commissioners. They remember me and say hi. I really do believe these relationships will bear fruit for years to come.”

As the Commissioner Conversations wrap up later this month, the team believes they will become a model that could be used in other counties such as Ramsey, Scott and Carver.

As for Hennepin County, Matt believes he and the other members of the Commissioner Strategy Team will meet with the County Commissioners again sometime in the future. “This isn’t a one and done. We’re playing the long game.”

Matt is willing to engage in the long game because of his deep call to help others. “I feel that this is right. I feel that it was the right thing to do and as a Christian and I’m happy to do the work.”