Jacqueline Congello ’20 J.D./LL.M. is the director of boards and commissions for the Office of Gov. Tim Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan. She joined the office right after she graduated from law school as the associate director of the boards and commissions and judicial appointments teams. She started her role as director in July 2022.
Tell us about your journey from law school to the governor’s office.
One of my St. Thomas Law professors, Karl Procaccini, general counsel and deputy chief of staff at the governor’s office, not only taught me the intricacies of international anti-corruption law but also taught me about careers in government. His explanation of the legal field in a government setting and my passion for public service and servant leadership drew me to the public sector. When I first saw the associate director position posted, I didn’t know anything about state boards and commissions. But I had a lot of interest in government structures and how multiple departments and agencies could work toward a common goal.
Describe the Office of Boards and Commissions and the work that you do as director.
The boards and commissions team coordinates and collaborates on legal- and appointments-related issues for the governor and lieutenant governor. As the director, I am responsible for facilitating their appointing authority. This includes appointments to state boards and commissions, agency heads and other leadership roles. This work requires close collaboration with the policy experts in our office as well as stakeholders inside and outside of state government. In addition to administering the standard appointments process, I conduct outreach to community stakeholders to gather feedback and I analyze relevant enabling authorities. I enjoy my position because I get to learn about a wide variety of professions and topics that impact Minnesotans. I am constantly curious and enjoy continually learning.
Is there a recent project you have worked on of which you are particularly proud?
It’s hard to pinpoint just one project – I am proud of all our work. It is rewarding each time I see a passionate member join a board and help the board make positive change for Minnesotans.
The governor has made approximately 1,700 appointments to a variety of boards and commissions in his first term. During my time in the office, there has been an increase in the number of appointees from the Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) communities and appointees who have disclosed a disability. I am proud to be working with an office that is passionate about ensuring that our boards and commissions reflect Minnesota’s diversity and that works to increase the voices from historically underrepresented communities.
You have been involved with the Minnesota Asian Pacific American Bar Association (MNAPABA) for many years. What are your goals as the current MNAPABA vice president of outreach?
MNAPABA has been a family and strong support system throughout my legal career, including my law school days. As the vice president of outreach, I hope to continue to provide support but expand beyond MNAPABA legal professionals. There are many other incredible affinity bar associations and Asian community organizations, and we can collaborate and share resources to support each other and work together toward common goals. Within the Asian community, there is a lot of diversity. I hope to encourage more events where our communities can learn from each other and celebrate achievements together.
What’s something you learned at St. Thomas, in class or out, that you carry with you even today as a professional?
Don’t expect to be perfect – expect to be better.
In law school, it was tempting to try and compare myself to my peers and other legal professionals. But my mentors and professors always encouraged me to compare myself only to who I was. Instead of focusing on being the best, they encouraged me to keep pushing for improvement and focus on being a better version of myself.
This mindset of growth and focusing on improvement rather than perfection has become a personal motto. Each of us will go through challenges and struggles. But the important part is to push for improvement and be a better person today than we were yesterday.
What do you do to prioritize wellness?
People who know me well know that I am a major dog fan. My corgi and rescue pup are my life, and they are the best stress relief – how can you not smile when you see a corgi bum or a smiling dog face?
I am also an avid reader, amateur knitter and I have an appreciation for mythology – this is partially why my puppies are named Athena and Leonidas.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
I would not be where I am today without the support from my family, colleagues, friends, and network. I am grateful for everyone who has helped me along my legal career journey.