Athena will remain the only Black out LGBTQ representative in the Minnesota House!
Athena Hollins just finished serving her first term in the Minnesota State House, representing District 66B. She is a leader in intersectional issues within the House, taking on proposals related to BIPOC and LGBTQ+ protections. Her priority policy area is combating climate change, though she also serves on the committees for Preventing Homelessness, Judiciary, and Public Safety and Criminal Justice Reform. Prior to being sworn in, she was the Senior Director of Diversity and Foundations for the Minnesota State Bar Association, and an adjunct professor at University of St. Thomas School of Law, teaching within the renowned mentor externship program. Athena also serves her community as a board member of the Payne Phalen Community Council, and the Minnesota Association of Black Lawyers. In her spare time, Athena likes to play outdoors with her two kids and work on her many quilting projects.
Alex Manwell was born and raised in Saginaw, Michigan, to parents who were lifelong public servants. His mother, Kathy, was a public school English teacher and guidance counselor, while his father, Terry, was an assistant prosecutor and reserve officer with the United States Coast Guard.
Alex and his sister, Colleen, grew up watching as their parents struggled against the cuts to public funding under Republican Governor John Engler. His mother’s job got increasingly difficult as funding continued to decrease for education, yet she remained determined to help the kids in Saginaw who could only have a better future through education. His father, meanwhile, worked tirelessly to keep the city safe as an assistant prosecutor as Saginaw’s fortunes continued to decline – a fate shared by so many other industrial Midwest cities. Terry still found time to do more, coaching high school tennis and volleyball teams when he wasn’t stationed with the Coast Guard reserve on Lake Huron and Lake Saint Clair.
Throughout college at the University of Michigan, Alex learned firsthand how to fix the damn roads – as a Construction Manager Co-Op with the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT). He oversaw the construction of bridge, highway, and water infrastructure projects on behalf of the State.
When Alex graduated with a degree in civil & environmental engineering his parents, exhausted from battling the bureaucracies of the public sector, warned him to stay away. Like many Michigan parents, they hoped their children could find success in a place that understood the importance of investing in its people and communities.
In the next decade, Alex worked with companies in Detroit and across the world to help evaluate and appraise infrastructure. He advised CFOs, bankers, and investors on the value of their property and equipment; inspected power plants, factories, water systems, refineries, warehouses, solar farms and wind turbines. He also worked as an environmental engineer at a firm in Metro Detroit, advising clients like Ford, General Motors, and Consumers Energy on cleaning up their factories and ensuring they met their public commitments to clean air and water.
Alex also understood the power of Detroit’s story, and was determined to help share it with more people around the world. With friends, Alex built and opened Hostel Detroit in 2011 – the first hostel in Detroit – which has since welcomed tens of thousands of tourists to Detroit from every state and 80+ countries. He heard countless stories from Hostel guests who fell in love with Detroit during their stay- and who decided to stay, buy homes, start businesses, and build their lives right here in SE Michigan.
Today, Michigan has an infrastructure crisis. The American Society of Civil Engineers recently graded Michigan’s infrastructure a D+. And yet, of the 148 elected members of the Michigan House and Senate, there are 0 (zero) civil engineers.
Alex knows we’re running out of time to fix our infrastructure and protect our fresh water. He knows we need elected leadership with the energy, experience, and know-how to get things done. No drama, no finger-pointing; just fixing the problem.