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Kevin Lindsey was appointed Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Human Rights in February 2011. (Staff photo: Bill Klotz)
Kevin Lindsey was appointed Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Human Rights in February 2011. (Staff photo: Bill Klotz)

Breaking the Ice: Rights commissioner expands agency’s role

Name: Kevin Lindsey

Title: Commissioner, Minnesota Department of Human Rights

Education: B.A., J.D., University of Iowa

Commissioner Kevin Lindsey has worked to gain additional responsibilities for the Minnesota Department of Human Rights since his 2011 appointment by Gov. Mark Dayton.

The department, under the Minnesota Human Rights Act, investigates claims of discrimination, ensures equal employment opportunity on state contracts of more than $100,000 and uses “education, conference and conciliation to combat discrimination and disparate outcomes,” Lindsey said.

In part through Lindsey’s efforts, the department’s duties have expanded to include investigation of violations of “ban the box” rules that prohibit questions about criminal history on initial employment applications. The department also now is part of the council that monitors school anti-bullying and the Emerging Entrepreneurs program.

“I feel very fortunate to be in a position to potentially have a positive impact on creating opportunities for people and for them to meaningfully feel that their life has been positively changed,” said Lindsey, an attorney who has worked in the private and public sectors.

Q. What’s the best way to start a conversation with you?

A. I’m passionate as it relates to the topics of the day. I try to go through the paper, see what is trending within the news. The quickest way in which to start up a conversation with me is probably sports.

Q. Who was the first presidential candidate you voted for and why?

A. Jimmy Carter. I remember ‘Citizen’ Carter coming to the University of Iowa. He was doing some work with Habitat for Humanity. I remember seeing him in a relatively small space, a room that holds 60 or 70 people. There was no Secret Service. It was very interesting, a former president throwing himself so passionately into this level of work.

Q. What books are on your bedside table or e-reader?

A. Emily Baxter has a new book, “We Are All Criminals,” concerning what is going on with individuals who have been formerly incarcerated. But it also weaves in some tales and tries to drive the humanity of the conversation.

Q. What’s a favorite activity outside your job?

A. My favorite activity 10 years ago probably would have been playing basketball. I have now gotten to the point where I still enjoy it but now I’m thinking about landing. It changes the game as to how you approach it. The thing I’m enjoying now is seeing my three sons do things at this stage because they’re now 15 and approaching 25.

Q. If someone visits you in your hometown, what would you take them to see or do?

A. The Can Can (Wonderland) is interesting. It appeals to a wide range of folks. If people want to lounge and enjoy the adult beverage of their choice there’s space for that to happen. You can play [mini] golf. I like the 18th hole whether it’s 200 or 250 feet. It’s funny trying to get a hole in one.

Q. How has an event or person inspired you?

A. The person who probably inspires me most, probably not surprising as it relates to the job title, is Dr. King. You have to stop and think what it must have been like then and the challenges that he faced and the emotional toll from a personal level. I have some sense as it relates to how emotionally draining it is sometimes to be in the midst of it in trying to create more equality for more people. Whenever I think that it’s hard I just think, ‘Well, how much harder was it then?’ It allows us to take that wrath and redouble the efforts and try to move forward.

Q. What is something very few people know about you?

A. People would be surprised at how much I enjoy filmmaking and the movie-making process. Chris Rock as it relates to some of his comedy monologues, if people went back and listened to some of the things he was talking about 10, 15 years ago they would see that he was really ahead of his time in thinking about things and gave us a window into some the challenges and conversations we’re now having.

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