Get To Know Pam Tollefson For Saint Paul City Council Ward 5
By Ava Michaels
The Hmong Times recently caught up with Pam Tollefson who is running for Saint Paul City Council in Ward 5. Ward 5 is the area that spans the Como area, North Dale, the North End, Rice Street and part of the East Side.
I am a lifelong resident of Saint Paul and I care about my community. I will work tirelessly for everyone who lives and works here.
Hmong Times: Hello Pam, thank you for meeting with us today. Please give our readers a little background on your interaction with Hmong Americans.
Pam Tollefson: I remember back in the late 80’s, there was a meeting at St. Paul’s Johnson High School. The speaker talked about this new group of people coming to Minnesota and they were called Hmong. I have lived in the same neighborhood on the East Side of Saint Paul for my whole life. Many Hmong families settled in the East Side when they came to Minnesota. I know they came here because they wanted better for their family and kids, and it worked here. Many started out in public housing and then rental property and progressing to homeownership.
My interactions have always been positive, and the Hmong are good neighbors. I just talked to one of my Hmong neighbors the other day and asked him some questions about Hmong people. He said, “We want to be considered Americans. We want what everyone wants in life.”
My mom and dad lived in a house on the East Side, and their neighbors on both sides of their house were Hmong Americans. Both families helped my parents by snow blowing their sidewalk and looking out for them. Mom was so appreciative of them and thought they were great neighbors.
There was a car repair shop on Maryland Avenue and Arkwright Street, where two Hmong American men worked. Mom would say “call Paul”, he will help me with my car. Many times, they came to the house and helped mom with maintenance on her vehicles. When mom died in 2020, I told them about it and they both showed up at my mom’s funeral. I cried when I saw them because it really touched me. I know Hmong are very respectful toward elders. I believe Hmong American businesses contribute greatly to Saint Paul’s economy.
HT: Do you think there was bias against Hmong Americans when they arrived here from Thailand?
PT: When Hmong people first came over to the United States as refugees, they faced a variety of reactions from the American population. They encountered a mixture of curiosity, misunderstanding, and cultural clashes along with both positive and negative attitudes.
HT: Do you think there is bias against Hmong Americans happening today?
PT: Sadly, I think there will always be some bias towards any group of people. But the people of the Hmong community have made so many contributions in various fields, including education, healthcare, business and arts, that I believe many of the initial challenges and misunderstandings have given way to a better understanding and appreciation of Hmong culture and contributions.
HT: If you are elected to the St. Paul City Council, what will you do to help the Hmong people?
PT: I will be fair and honest when representing Hmong Americans and all people in Saint Paul. Everyone is equal and should be treated equally. When needed, I will work diligently with families who have needs for someone in their family, such as an elderly person. There are some things that I may be able to help with to alleviate some stress from a family in need of help.
HT: What do you admire about the Hmong people?
PT: I love the work ethic of the Hmong people, Hmong people have a closeness with family, and are very loyal to people – I have immense respect the Hmong people for their values.
HT: What message would you like people to “take away” from this interview?
PT: I want to “show up” for everyone in Ward 5. To me, that means listening, going to a place where it’s easy for someone to talk to me, actively participate, be dedicated, and be willing to support if needed. I ask you to vote for me in the Saint Paul City Council election this fall.
The Hmong Times would like to thank Pam Tollefson for sharing her thoughts on Ward 5.
If you agree with Pam’s values and would like to contribute to her campaign, please go to www.pamtollefsonward5.com.