Otaibi joins the Department of Public Transformation

Jessica Stölen-Jacobson
Granite Falls Advocate Tribune

The Department of Public Transformation in Granite Falls announced in December that two new employees will be joining the staff this month. Last week, the Advocate Tribune introduced Holly Doll, who will be joining the staff as the Ignite Rural Program Coordinator. Sarina Otaibi will be joining the staff as the Creative Rural Building Program Director. The Department of Public Transformation (or DoPT), is an artist-led organization working to develop creative strategies for increased community connection, civic pride, and equitable participation in rural areas. 

Otaibi's role will involve program management, implementation, and collaboration in the areas of creative building rehab, historic preservation, and economic community development. An example of this is are plans for Otaibi to share the community-based models of building rehab and reuse of Bluenose Gopher Public House Cooperative and the YES! House with other rural communities potentially interested in implementing similar models. 

Sarina Otaibi

Otaibi has spent the last ten years working for two separate nonprofit organizations in Minnesota. She has worked for Clean Up the River Environment (or CURE) in Montevideo after graduate school, organizing around clean water and energy. She then took the position of Minnesota Main Street Coordinator and Rural Programs Manager at Rethos, working with Minnesota's Main Street communities to establish preservation and arts-based community development approaches to downtowns. "In my home community of Granite Falls, I served as an elected City Council member for over six years, and as the founding Board Chair of a local cooperative, Bluenose Gopher Public House, as well as being involved in other local community organizations," says Otaibi. She also currently serves as a Board member of two nonprofit arts and cultural organizations  - the Springboard for the Arts, and Art of the Rural. 

Otaibi's educational background includes a Master's Degree in Historic Preservation from the University of Maryland, College Park as well as a BBA in Marketing from Stetson University, Florida. She decided to leave her position as Rural Programs Manager at Rethos earlier in 2021 to care for her newborn daughter full-time while figuring out what she wanted to do next in her career. "During that time, I met with Ashley Hanson and Hannah Holman of DoPT to share some of my ideas and vision I had for work I wanted to do around building rehab in rural communities," she says. "My vision matched up with DoPT's vision and work, so we decided to create this new role and program and build it together."

The most interesting aspect of the position for Otaibi is the potential to build a rural community support network. "I am most interested in building a support network with rural communities that are creatively addressing the common challenge of old building rehab and use," she says. 

The challenging aspect of the job that Otaibi anticipates will be resources. "As with many community development programs, it will be an ongoing challenge to balance our capacity and resources with the demand for support in this area of work," she says. 

Otaibi started her position with the DoPT on January 10th. For more information about the DoPT, visit their website at publictransformation.org.