Early life and education
Diane is a lifelong resident of Northeast Minneapolis. She was born while her parents cared for her grandmother at 27th and Jackson Street. She attended Northeast schools and graduated from Edison High School. Diane went to college with the help of union scholarships and graduated from Augsburg with a major in social science (a blend of history, economics, and sociology) and a minor in education. She continued her education with graduate classes at the University of Minnesota and through her selection as a Policy Fellow of the Institute for Educational Leadership.
Learning early the power of public policy
A major influence was the life of Diane’s aunt Lil. Lil was born with Down’s Syndrome at a time when the practice was to send those with developmental disabilities away to then-dreadful state hospitals. Her grandparents were immigrants from Sweden and would have none of that. So Lil stayed at home while her sisters and brothers went to school. Lil’s dream of someday going to school came true when she was 35 years old and volunteers organized a program in a church basement. Late in her life, the beginning of government funded day training programs soon transformed Lil’s life and led to her first paycheck.(Less than $3 but her pride was unlimited.)
The advent of special education rights has made valued citizens and taxpayers of people we once “warehoused”. Lil’s life taught Diane the power of government policies to open doors of opportunity and ignited her passion to use public policy as a way of improving people’s lives.
A career devoted to making a difference
Diane's career has been spent in public service. She has worked as a budget and policy analyst on education issues for the State of Minnesota, on city finance and tax issues for the City of Minneapolis and the League of Minnesota Cities, and in Human Services, Health and Training and Employment for Hennepin County. She continues to work at Hennepin when not at the Legislature. The focus has always been on improving services to be more cost effective with better outcomes.
An active community leader
Diane's volunteer time has been spent in making a difference in Northeast Minneapolis. There she has led efforts to save a local library, address ground and air pollution, improve housing, develop youth programs, and actively been involved in Central Avenue and riverfront redevelopment, park planning, and crime prevention. Project by project, year by year Diane’s demonstrated her dedication to not just talking about problems, but leading efforts to address them.
Sharing a life of service
Diane became a homeowner with the purchase of a large classic triplex that she began restoring in the Windom Park Neighborhood. A fundraising project of the Minnesota Environmental Education Board introduced her to her spouse, Mike Vennewitz. Mike works in pollution prevention and energy conservation. Together they enjoy exploring the local arts scene, it’s restaurants and local businesses, and getting out in nature. Diane’s busy life doesn’t offer much down time but she enjoys squeezing in some experiments with art in a variety of forms and recreational reading.
Diane was first elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives in 2004. Her community work prepared her well for operating in a body with 134 members where one must be able to work well with others, build a persuasive case and prioritize one’s work to be successful in bringing positive change into the law books of the state. Running for re-election every other summer and fall keeps Diane close to her constituents and their thoughts on the issues. Diane enjoys and works hard at representing the fifteen neighborhoods of Northeast and northern Southeast Minneapolis.