About Don - Samuels for Minneapolis School Board

About Don


Young Don Samuels, at center in the back row, with his family.

Young Don Samuels, at center in the back row, with his family.

Don immigrated to the U.S. from Jamaica in 1970 to study Industrial Design. He resigned his position as Senior Director of Research & Development at Playskool to head his own small business, inventing and designing toys for major toy manufacturers. Don also graduated with a Masters of Divinity in 2001 from the Luther Seminary.

After emerging as a strong voice for peace in his North Minneapolis neighborhood, Don was urged by his neighbors to run for public office. With their support, Don was first elected in February 2003 to the Minneapolis City Council, where he served until 2014.

Don co-founded the Hope Collaborative to regularly bring the leaders of top-performing schools from across the country, to share their strategies for educating low-income and minority students with the MPS leadership and board, community leaders, and education advocates.

Don Co-chaired the Executive Committee of the Empowerment Zone Board, was the Chair of the Public Safety and Regulatory Services Committee, and served as the only Northside representative on the City’s Community Development Committee.

In his role as a Council Member, he helped direct Empowerment Zone and Community Development funds to North Minneapolis-based employment services. He also co-sponsored a resolution to restrict when the City of Minneapolis can ask applicants if they have been convicted of a crime, thus allowing qualified and rehabilitated ex-felon job seekers a greater chance of attaining employment with the city.

With his wife, Sondra, Don also founded the Institute for Authentic Dialogue on race, which guides executives and leaders in conversations and relationships across race with unprecedented clarity and mutuality.

Don has an adult son, an adult daughter, and two young daughters. He and his family live in the Jordan neighborhood of North Minneapolis.