Joané McAfee is the senior policy advisor and NGA Public Safety and Homeland Security advisor to Gov. Mark Dayton. where she works with the Department of Public Safety, the Department of Corrections, the Department of Human Rights, the Minnesota National Guard, and the courts to ensure things go smoothly as they work to serve Minnesotans.
“I evaluate and assess different policies that can have positive or negative impacts on Minnesotans and give the Governor comprehensive information so that he can make the best decision. Every day, I learn something new about what actually makes state government work efficiently,” she explains
The millennial executive gets excited about showing up to working every day because “Every day, I learn something new about what actually makes state government work efficiently. I’m inspired to show up to work every day because I know there isn’t a single issue I work on that doesn’t affect someone’s life directly. The immediate connection I have to making a difference is rewarding and has taught me the range of experiences people have in this state. I’m also inspired to show up to work because I work in an office where my voice is heard and respected. I’m surrounded by mentors and brilliant people who are all here for one purpose: to make Minnesota better.”
Read what else she has to say.
How did you determine your career path?
Interestingly enough, this was not my career path at all. In middle school, I decided I was going to be the next Oprah, so I took whatever internship I could that got me there and I graduated with a degree in public relations. It wasn’t until my first job after college fell through that I was blessed with a new opportunity in politics. My mentor and former boss, Sen. Bobby Joe Champion wanted to be much more intentional about bringing people of color into the legislature, which is a predominantly white space and decided he would take a chance on me. He took a huge risk because when I started, I didn’t even understand the difference between federal and state government. It paid off and after working at the Minnesota Senate for three years, I was recruited to work for Governor Dayton. I’ve been blessed to have amazing opportunities come my way, giving me the freedom to pick and choose what I’d like to do next.
Community success based on what you do in the community means what to you.
Community success for me is associated with POWERMoves, a group I started with eight other women of color for one purpose: building bridges that connect women of color for an intentional outcome through presence, purpose, and power. It is particularly challenging being a woman of color in Minnesota because you are frequently the only one in most spaces you find yourself in. We’ve gotten hundreds of women to come together to share their experiences in a safe space where we can be honest and transparent about whatever is on our mind. Success with POWERMoves for me would be significantly expanding women of color’s exposure to opportunities they’re traditionally left out of, seeing women of color run the show with a strong support system of other women of color behind them would be success to me. My hope is that POWERMoves is a sustainable network of women who continue to keep the work going while increasing our power.
Technology plays what role in your daily life?
For work, I have two phones. One is my personal phone and the other is my work phone. This means I literally have technology at my fingertips – all day every day. It amazes me how efficiently I’m able to communicate as a result of the access I have to technology. Our office does an amazing job notifying each other and passing information along. There is no way we’d be able to do this as fast without the assortment technology we have available to us. Because my job is to provide the Governor with the most recent information, having an immediate connection to breaking news and developments is key.
If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?
Significantly increasing the [number] of people of color at the decision-making table. Whether it’s politicians, senior executives, commissioners, judges etc; we should decide. In the last six years, I’ve learned that no one can advocate for us better than we can. No one can fight harder for us than we fight for ourselves and no one knows us and our communities better than we do. I firmly believe that increasing the [number] of people of color who are making decisions and creating laws and policies will bring us much closer to eliminating disparities. I’ve seen the difference it makes when I speak up in a room full of white people to offer the perspective of a black woman. It has completely changed someone’s decision. Although this is great, I think about how much time would be saved if I was the one who made the decision instead of influencing it. Unfortunately, people of color have to spend much of their time convincing decision makers of the importance of what we’re saying. We literally are lobbying for our lives and our wellbeing. I strongly believe we should be the ones deciding.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
Learning how to live in the moment. I’m constantly thinking of what’s next or analyzing a situation, so I’m rarely able to take everything in whether it’s good or bad. Even when I’m not physically moving, my mind is always racing about something. I’m hoping I can learn how to declutter my thoughts and be much more intentional about being in the moment. For example, I’ve worked on some pretty high profile issues in the Governor’s office, but because my mind is always running, I forget to enjoy the moment of success and I sometimes miss it.