Ramsey County Commissioner Trista MatasCastillo will take the helm at Minnesota’s second-largest county after her peers elected her to the board chair role Tuesday.
MatasCastillo, 47, said she supports the board’s current progressive priorities including criminal justice reform and equity work, but said she will do more to combat climate change.
“There is one area in particular though I do believes requires more focus. That is addressing what Ramsey County can do to reduce our environmental impact locally and to mitigate future climate change impacts that we know are on the horizon,” MatasCastillo said during her first speech as chair.
MatasCastillo takes the gavel from Commissioner Toni Carter, who served as chair from 2020-2021. Commissioner Jim McDonough was named vice chair.
The chair typically serves two years.
In the role, MatasCastillo will lead the seven-member board, which oversees a $773 million annual budget, more than 4,000 staffers and dozens of departments and programs including roads, parks, social services, public health, elections and libraries. MatasCastillo said her job as chair will be to help the county manager deliver on vision, values and priorities set by the board.
On Tuesday, the board’s first meeting of 2022, MatasCastillo thanked county employees and frontline workers for their efforts during the ongoing pandemic.
“These past two years have tested every member of our Ramsey County family in ways we could have never anticipated,” she said.
A military veteran, community organizer and nonprofit policy staffer, MatasCastillo earned the DFL endorsement and was first elected in 2018, defeating longtime officeholder Janice Rettman.
MatasCastillo represents the Third District, which includes Falcon Heights and a portion of St. Paul including the Payne-Phalen, North End, South Como, Como Park, Frogtown and Hamline-Midway neighborhoods.
MatasCastillo grew up in Little Falls, Minn. but has lived in St. Paul for more than two decades. She joined the United States Navy at 17, and served on active duty for 16 years. She has served in three branches of the service — the U.S. Navy, Navy-Marine Corps and the Army National Guard. She was the first woman to serve as commander of the 34th Military Police Company with the Minnesota National Guard.
After her time in the military, MatasCastillo worked as a community organizer, policy leader and consultant at several nonprofits including Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity, Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans and the Minnesota Humanities Center.
MatasCastillo and her husband, Hector, have 5 sons and live in the North Como neighborhood.