Never Quit winner Jenny Barta, a public health nurse, was born to serve her community

By Pablo Ros ·

The early months of the coronavirus pandemic posed a challenge unlike any our communities had ever faced. Not surprisingly, many public service workers stepped up to the plate.

One of them was Jenny Barta.

A public health nurse specialist for the Carlton County, Minnesota, Department of Public Health and Human Services, Barta faced a deadly virus and the task of keeping her community safe. She accepted the challenge and never looked back.

“Once the public health emergency was declared,” she recalls, “our public health department set up an incident command system to respond to this pandemic. I was designated then as the subject matter expert for COVID-19, which was really challenging because this was a disease that nobody knew very much about.”

For her service to her community, Barta, a member of AFSCME Local 2750 (Council 65), is a winner of our union’s Never Quit Service Award, which recognizes public service workers who go above and beyond the call of duty to make their communities better.

“Jenny keeps going day after day, week after week, month after month,” says Dave Lee, director of Carlton County’s public health department. “She is very much driven by: She’s got a job to do, she’s got people to serve. She wants people to be healthy and safe and vaccinated and have all the tools that they need to keep themselves, their family and their community safe and healthy.”

Joanne Erspamer, a public health supervisor, says Barta has become a “trusted messenger” for the department.

“I really believe it’s because she does really take the time, both personally and professionally, to get to know the community,” Erspamer says.

Barta is originally from northeastern Minnesota, born and raised next door to Carlton County. She says it’s part of the reason she feels a sense of “ownership and responsibility” to protect her community.

When the coronavirus pandemic began, she says, “I counted it as an honor and a privilege to be able to serve my community in this capacity and to be kind of a spokeswoman for our public health department.”

“This is what I was called for, this is what I was designed to do,” Barta says. “As a mother and a wife, and as a nurse, this is what I was born to do. And in this time of greatest need for my local community, I was able to provide some sort of encouragement, some sort of help and guidance and a sense of protection. … It was the greatest challenge of my career, but so fulfilling to be able to be a part of this, and to be able to work with such an amazing team.”

Never Quit Service Awards

Do you know a co-worker who goes above and beyond the call of duty to make their community better? Nominate them for AFSCME’s Never Quit Service Award.