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Rafael Ortega County Commissioner
Representing District 5

OrtegaCommissioner Contact Information

Rafael Ortega (email)
Ramsey County Board Office
Room 220 Court House
15 W. Kellogg Blvd.
St. Paul, MN 55102

Tel:  651.266.8361
Fax: 651.266.8370

Commissioner Assistant:

Ken Iosso (email)
Tel: 651 266-8367

Administrative Assistant

Sandi Thompson (email)
Tel. 651.266.8351

Proudly serving citizens in the following communities (District Map)

District Councils:

Commissioner Rafael Ortega Bio

Rafael grew up in a tough neighborhood in New York City and learned first-hand the importance of transit, education and libraries in making it possible for everyone to contribute to society. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Fordham University in New York City and came to Minnesota to earn his Master's degree in Social Work at the University of Minnesota in 1978.

He was a front-line social worker before becoming an Outreach Director for Minnesota Council of Churches. From 1984 to 1994, Ortega was Executive Director of CLUES (Communidades Latinas Unidas en Servicio), a Twin Cities social service agency that grew under his leadership from a $100,000 organization to one with a $3 million budget serving more than 15,000 clients. He is still a licensed social worker.

Rafael E. Ortega became the first member of a minority group to be elected to the Ramsey County Board and the first Latino elected to a County Board in Minnesota in 1994. He has been elected by a wide majority in every election since then. He served as Chair of the Board from 2012 through 2013. He is now serving his third term as the Chair of the Regional Rail Authority.

Commissioner Ortega is focused on protecting Ramsey County’s most vulnerable residents, building a great transportation network in Minnesota, and making sure that Ramsey County delivers the best service in a cost-effective way. As Chair of the Facilities Commission from 2001-2012, he took the lead on making county facilities fuel-efficient and environmentally sound. He has also become a recognized leader on transit in the metro area over his time on the County Board, particularly in his role as Chair of the Regional Rail Authority from 1997-1999, 2002-2007 and since 2014. He has frequently spoken on MPR and contributed to the Star Tribune and Pioneer Press. His work, and the work of all the communities and leaders who have been pushing for the same thing, has paid off for Ramsey County. In 2014, he received the Progress Minnesota Lifetime Achievement Award from Finance and Commerce newspaper for his work on job creation, business development, and the overall economic health of the Twin Cities and the entire state.

His top priorities currently are to build a great Riverview Corridor transitway connecting Union Depot with MSP International Airport and the Mall of America and to get the 427-acre Rice Creek Commons site redeveloped and back on the tax rolls for the first time in a generation.


Under Commissioner Ortega’s leadership, Ramsey County:

  • Completed renovation of the Union Depot in 2012, making it a state-of-the-art multi-modal transit hub for Minnesota and employing 2,500 to build it and will receive the Green Line LRT and AMTRAK in 2014.
  • Built the Roseville Library, the state’s busiest, to LEED Gold Standard, reducing operating costs and preserving limited resources.
  • With mental health and chemical dependency experts and local hospitals, created "402 University", an award-winning, first of its kind facility that delivers these critical services under one roof.
  • Remains one of only 39 counties in the US to maintain a triple-A bond rating while delivering a 0% property tax levy increase in 2014.
  • Funded the building of 4,000 units of housing, including parts of the Gateway in Highland Park, the Upper Landing on Shepard, the American House downtown, Passages on West 7th, and Homes for Learning in Dayton’s Bluff.
  • Did critical site cleanup for Sholom Home East on West 7th in Highland Park, paving the way for what the Star Tribune calls the “future of nursing homes.”
  • Merged the Ramsey County 800 Mhz Emergency Dispatch Center with the City of Saint Paul to protect the safety of the county and save taxpayers more than $6 million.
  • Merged county and city public health and jail facilities.


Rafael has lived in Ramsey County District 5 for more than 30 years. Commissioner Ortega is the proud parent of two children; Gabriela, a graduate of the University of Saint Thomas and El Sol Director for the Northern Star Council of the Boy Scouts of America, and Emilio, a graduate of Central High School who is attending Saint Paul College and working.  

Boards and Commissions

In addition to his professional work, Ortega is very active serving on community and civic boards including the Greater MSP Regional Economic Partnership, the Riverfront Corporation, and the National Association of Social Workers. He also serves on a number of transit boards and committees helping to shape Twin Cities transportation for generations to come.

Transportation Committees

Co-Chair - Gateway Corridor Commission
The Counties Transit Improvement Board (CTIB)
Association of Minnesota Counties Transportation Policy Committee 
Central Corridor Coordinating Committee
Central Corridor Partnership Executive Committee
National Association of County Officials Transportation Steering Committee
Robert Street Corridor Committee
Chair-Riverview Corridor Policy Advisory Committee

County Leadership

Chair – Ramsey County Regional Rail Authority
Chair – Ramsey County Audit Committee
Vice Chair – Ramsey County Facilities Committee
Vice Chair - Joint Development Authority-Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant (TCAAP)
Association of Minnesota Counties Board of Directors
Association of Minnesota Counties District X Executive Committee

Community Organizations

Greater MSP Regional Economic Development Partnership
Northern Star Council Boy Scouts of America Board of Directors
Ramsey/Washington County Resource Recovery Project
National Association of Social Workers
Regions Hospital Board
Metropolitan Energy Policy Coalition
Joint Property Tax Advisory Committee
Merrick Community Center
Itasca Project
Saint Paul Riverfront Corporation
Landmark Center Board
Former Member - Lifetrack Resources
Former Member - National Council of La Raza
Former Member - Rainbow Research Inc.
Former Treasurer – West Side Citizens Organization
Former Board Member - United Family Practice Health Center
Former Board Member – YMCA of Greater Saint Paul
Former Member-Greater MSP Regional Economic Development Partnership
Former Member-Regions Hospital Board

Ken Iosso, Aide to the Commissioner, has lived in the Mac Groveland area for more than 25 years, since he came to Minnesota to attend Macalester College. Mr. Iosso is a past President of St. Paul Smart Trips and has served as a deacon or elder at the Macalester-Plymouth Church for more than a decade. He has been a VISTA for the Saint Paul Literacy Project, worked for six years at American Express Financial Advisors, and has been a leader in the DFL for 20 years. His wife is an adjunct professor and his son is a student at Capitol Hill Public School.