Arnie Bigbee refers to himself as “kind of a volunteer geek.” After retiring in 2007 from a 32-year career in administration at Mayo Clinic, he has committed his time to organizations in Edina and the Twin Cities, focusing on the issue of affordable housing.
Affordable housing is a cause that holds personal significance to Bigbee. After his family was evicted from their home in south Minneapolis when he was 9 years old, Bigbee—along with his mother and sister—moved to Glendale Homes,
a federal housing project in south Minneapolis.
“We got lucky,” Bigbee says. “Affordable housing did exactly what it was supposed to do, providing stability for my family.”
Several years ago, Bigbee and other like-minded Edina residents rallied around the cause for expanding affordable housing in Edina. “We started asking questions of the people who can make that happen—the City Council—and they listened and took action,” Bigbee says. The city hired an affordable housing development manager in 2018 and approved a Tenant Protection Ordinance in 2021.
In 2019, Edina Neighbors for Affordable Housing (ENAH) was formed and created a community impact fund with the Edina Community Foundation to advance the mission of expanding and protecting affordable properties. ENAH seeks to have Edina meet or exceed the Metropolitan Council goal of 994 new affordable housing units in the city of Edina by 2030.
In addition to his work on affordable housing, Bigbee served on the Edina Human Rights and Relations Committee for six years and received the Tom Oye Human Rights Award in 2018. In 2020, he also served on the Edina Community Foundation’s COVID-19 Relief Committee and the Edina 2020 Census Complete Count Committee.
As he reflects on his years of advocacy work, Bigbee emphasizes the importance of community engagement and inviting people to engage in new causes. “At some time in the past, somebody invited me to consider doing something,” Bigbee says. “And that’s how we get people started in work like this.”
Contributed by Izzy Wagener, a senior at Edina High School, on behalf of the Edina Community Foundation.