Big ideas and good neighbors at SENA meeting


The SENA Annual Meeting on Oct. 3 was a lively affair at which six residents each presented an idea for how to spend $1,000 to improve the community. That amount was promised by SENA to the person (and four helpers) whose Big Idea won the most votes from attendees. The winning idea was to build raised garden beds at the Southside Star Community Garden so that people with disabilities and seniors with mobility problems can participate in gardening. Several people signed up to help make this idea a reality. Other ideas that garnered a high number of votes involved putting up art or signage to give the neighborhoods a “brand” and building bat houses by Lake Hiawatha.

In addition to the Idea Auction, the meeting featured the presentation of SENA’s first annual Good Neighbor Award. Read more about the award below.

The election of SENA Board members resulted in three new members (Christopher Lautenschlager, Thomas Berndt, and Owen Bratten) and two returning ones (Deanna Croes and Sam Newberg). Tom Evers, Jessica Hall, and Jen Newberg finished their terms and stepped down, with thanks from all present. The Board elected its officers after the meeting: Sam Newberg, president; Amy Lawler, vice president; Susan Fall, secretary; and Deanna Croes, treasurer.

Before the meeting, while people were assembling and having refreshments, three very talented South High students played music: Anders Nelson, guitar; Joe Suihkonen, trumpet; and Sam Wildenauer, bass. Outgoing president Tom Evers reported on SENA’s activities in the past year, and City Council Member Sandy Colvin Roy spoke briefly.

Meet New SENA Board Members

Chris Lautenschlager originally moved to Minneapolis in 1993, graduating from the University of Minnesota in 1999. After attending graduate school in New York, Chris returned to Minneapolis in 2005. He now works as a cataloger of federal government publications at the University of Minnesota’s Wilson Library. Chris and his wife, April Hamlin, an attorney, live in the Ericsson Neighborhood with their 10-month-old daughter, Hazel. Chris wants to help our neighborhoods retain the businesses already here and make conditions favorable to attract and sustain new businesses as well.

Owen Braaten grew up in western Minnesota and, after moving around for a few years after college, ended up back in Minneapolis. He has lived in the Ericsson Neighborhood since 2005 with his wife, Debra. Currently, he works at Ameriprise Financial in downtown Minneapolis as a managed account representative. He and Debra have two children, Sam and Nadia, and love to take advantage of the lakes and parks, one of which is only two blocks from their home. They try to squeeze in as many camping trips as they can during the summers. Their block has recently had an influx of parents with small kids, which is great to see in the neighborhood. He would like to help the continuing development of the small business community in our neighborhoods, to ensure the future of our thriving, familyoriented community.

Tom Berndt, a lifelong Minnesotan, earned a bachelor’s degree from St. John’s University in Collegeville and a law degree from William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul. Tom currently works as an attorney at the Minneapolis firm of Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi L.L.P. Tom and his wife, Carrie, recently had their first child, Oscar. The three live on the 2400 block of 43rd St. and are often seen walking their dog, Wally, throughout the Standish and Ericsson neighborhoods. Tom hopes to sustain and build upon the character, beauty, and community feel that drew him and Carrie to this unique part of Minneapolis.

SENA’s 2011 Good Neighbor Award

This fall, the Standish-Ericsson Neighborhood Association sponsored its first-ever Good Neighbor Award. People were invited to nominate residents who exemplify SENA’s mission of building on the strengths of the Standish and Ericsson neighborhoods— stability, diversity, and concern for others. A SENA committee reviewed the nine nominations and chose two winners: April and Tessa Silver and Steven Clift.

April and Tessa Silver are known on their block for their spirit of hospitality and generosity. They introduce neighbors to each other, provide space for the National Night Out block party, and organize meals and other projects to aid families in need. April also helped to create a block listserv on which neighbors share everything from information on winter parking restrictions to surplus garden vegetables.

Steven Clift, the founder and executive director of, volunteers his time as moderator of the Standish-Ericsson group on E-democracy. With approximately 850 members, the online forum brings together neighbors from across many blocks to chat about airport noise, lost and found pets, home repairs, property taxes, potluck dinners, and much, much more. Steven suggests topics for discussion, moves conversations along, and sees that people follow guidelines for good conversations.

Congratulations and thank you to these good neighbors!