Who is Leah Phifer? Iron Ranger. Biker. National Security Expert. FBI Counter-terrorism Analyst. Sporting Clays Extraordinaire.
I grew up in Two Harbors, along the shores of Lake Superior. In the summer, my dad was able to work out of the Northshore Mining facility in Babbit, so we lived at our cabin on One Pine Lake in Ely. Living near the water shaped my upbringing; I would often go down to the ore docks in Two Harbors to watch the massive boats share our state’s precious resources with the world. I couldn’t believe my little town had such a large impact on the world and I dreamed of doing the same. So after high school, I set out to leave my own mark on the world.
After I left Two Harbors, my mom and sister moved down to Isanti to join my stepdad who worked as a police officer in Brooklyn Center. I was worried about coming back from college to spend every summer in a new town. I started waiting tables in Isanti and soon enough I had built rapport with community members and forged some of the closest friendships of my life. It was during those summers that I developed deep connections to the community, a community I grew to love.
After six beautiful Isanti summers, I came back for good in 2008, after graduating college and teaching English overseas. The Spanish language skills I acquired led to a position with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in Bloomington, MN. It was at DHS I developed a deep appreciation for our nation’s law enforcement community. Every day for six years, I worked alongside good people trying to navigate the complex world of immigration enforcement. I was immersed in the complexities of our legal system and saw firsthand the human toll that broken policy has on our communities and our country.
I later went on to do my graduate work at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs. One week after graduation, I accepted a job with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and left for the FBI academy in Quantico, VA. Over the course of that summer, I was trained to become an Intelligence Analyst and returned to Minnesota to work counter-terrorism investigations in the Minneapolis FBI office. While the career I built in Minneapolis was very fulfilling, the Twin Cities lacked the community-centered life I lived in Isanti. With a commute of only 35 minutes, the FBI office in Brooklyn Center was close enough that I was able to move back to be near my family and friends in the town I loved.
During and after the 2016 election, I struggled with the changes I saw around me. People didn’t speak to their family members for weeks. My college friends from urban areas couldn’t understand the resentment resonating from rural areas. At the FBI, my colleagues and I wondered how this embittered environment would affect our work. I wondered how to continue a career in national security when issues of housing, food and economic security plagued too many families in my community and the nation. I no longer felt I was serving my country in the best way possible and knew I had to make a change.
Nearly 10 years ago, I raised my right hand and swore to defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Since then, I’ve watched political turmoil increase in our country, invade our communities and destabilize America’s standing on the world stage. I preach about the need for more women, more young people and more tolerance in the world of lawmaking. It is my sincere belief that the next generation of lawmakers will strive to overcome our divisiveness and build policy that benefits everyone in our communities – not just the elite few who can afford to purchase power.
After ten years, I realized I needed to heed my own words, as well as the oath I took at the beginning of my career. As I explore the next chapter of public service, I can’t promise to be a typical politician, but I do promise to continue defending the Constitution to the fullest extent of my ability. I promise to continue protecting the people of Minnesota and my home district. I promise to use my skills and training to gather all the facts and use all resources at my disposal to come to the best solutions possible for our communities. By the end of this summer, I hope to find that I’m the best person to represent our diverse interests. Regardless of the outcome, I promise to be here, working alongside all of you to find the best way forward for our district and our country.
“I solemnly swear to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.”