Last Friday, August 14, MCCD bid a congratulatory farewell to our long time Loan Program Manager, Mara O’Neill. Mara started at MCCD in 2011 and has been instrumental in the growth and success of our small business lending program. Mara is a tireless advocate for entrepreneurs, passionate about supporting small businesses and the community development sector, and a dedicated and very detailed-oriented loan program administrator. Mara volunteers frequently in the community, teaching entrepreneur classes and serving on non-profit boards, and also was a long-time mentor to many early-career community development professionals through MCCD’s Emerging Leaders in Community Development mentorship program.
Mara’s dedication and belief in the work was much appreciated by all of her co-workers at MCCD over the last 9 years. “It has been an honor to work with Mara over the last few years. Her dedication to the entrepreneurs that MCCD works with has set the standard of what we can achieve together. Mara’s relationship with each client and small business owner was personal and full of care and attention, which has served as a true inspiration to me,” Tyler Hilsabeck, Interim Director of Small Business Development, shared.
Mara had over 35 years of experience in the community economic development field and made a huge mark in the Twin Cities area. Prior to coming to MCCD, Mara worked for First Children’s Finance as the Director of Capital Investments, was the Chief Operating Officer at Neighborhood Development Center, and also providing financing and technical assistance to small businesses while at the City of Saint Paul Department of Planning and Economic Development. In 2019, Mara received the “Friends of CBA Award” from the Credit Builders Alliance and in 2006, Mara was named one of the Top Women in Finance Award from Finance and Commerce.
In her closing message to her co-workers and partners, Mara wrote:
Dr. Martin Luther King by way of Theodore Parker said that the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice. My faith in Dr. King’s statement has been sorely tested in the last few years. But I have come to realize that faith is really quite insufficient. It takes works (those of you raised Catholic will understand my use of the plural.)
I have loved this field of economic development because it has made me understand how interconnected we all are, how dependent we are on each other, and how important it is to build a community that embraces all of us as the individuals we are.
It has been my honor and privilege to have been able to work with you over these last few years – and for some of you – over the last several decades to try to help build that community. We’ve often fallen short, but sometimes together we’ve bent that arc just a little more toward what’s fair and what’s just.
Keep up the wonderful work you are doing and keep bending that arc.
To all who had the privilege of working with Mara, you know that Mara has deserved some time off to relax and we hope you’ll join us in wishing her well in her retirement!