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Camila Gadotti came to Minnesota as a graduate student interested in the food industry. Now a top-level executive for a multinational food and water testing company, she recently became chairwoman of Crime Stoppers of Minnesota.

Crime Stoppers is a nonprofit that operates independently from law enforcement to collect tips that may help solve crimes. The person providing information remains anonymous, and information that leads to a felony arrest can result in a reward of up to $1,000. Rewards are funded through donations and a fee paid by law enforcement.

Eye On St. Paul recently met with Gadotti, who lives with her wife and their 3-year-old daughter in Highland Park, to talk about what brought her to Minnesota and her vision for Crime Stoppers. This interview was edited for length.

Q: Tell me about you. How long have you lived in St. Paul?

A: Oh boy, I could give you a very long story or summarize. I'll summarize. I'm from Brazil originally. I came to the U.S. 17 years ago. And I came to do an exchange program at the University of Minnesota. It was called Minnesota Agricultural Student Training. Now, I don't believe in destiny per se, but sometimes life gives you pushes. And you have to adjust. Coming here is kind of something like that. It was an interesting situation. My dad wasn't well. I had recently graduated and was having a hard time finding jobs and my brother [told me] about an exchange program where you can go and learn English. You can take some classes at the U of M, and you can come back and it will be easier for you to find a job.

Q: How old were you then?

A: 23. So I came to do the exchange program. It was a one-year thing. The first six months, they put you working at whatever place so you can pay rent. And then you take classes at the U of M. They had me working at Linder's greenhouse on Larpenteur Avenue for six months. Even though I don't come from a wealthy family, I was able to go to college. Doing manual labor really changes your perspective on things. So when I started taking classes at the U of M, I chose all graduate-level courses. You know what, even if I had to study until 1 a.m. every day, it was a lot easier than setting up a greenhouse in the parking lot of a Cub Foods.

At the end of it, I was offered a full assistantship for a master's program, and that changed my life. So I did a master's in food science with emphasis in food safety and microbiology. I got an internship at 3M. They hired me full-time. [Other jobs and companies followed. Gadotti is president of a global testing company with 45,000 employees.]

Q: As president, what is your skillset?

A: I think every leader would answer this question differently. Leadership is key. So knowing the technical aspect of what we do certainly helps, but what makes a difference is building a team that is cohesive that works well together, that drives toward the same goal that we set forth. The reason I wanted to get into the food industry is that it touches everyone's lives. That drives me every day, to do that right. To do that well.

Q: It sounds like you're someone who doesn't shy away from a challenge.

A: No, I don't. My mom is a warrior. I don't think she got more education than elementary school. She fought a lot for us and really taught us to take on a challenge and do what it takes.

Q: How did you become involved with Crime Stoppers?

A: I had been with my company about six or seven years. All my teams were profitable. So I said to my boss, "I'm not complaining, but I'm getting bored. I'm ready for the next challenge."

So I thought maybe this was a perfect time for me to start giving away some of my time and my expertise. And I wanted to find something I cared about, and public safety is one of those things. In Brazil, you never felt quite safe. As a young woman, I had been mugged many times. I have a daughter and I want her to be safe. So I contacted Crime Stoppers and I said, "I'm interested in volunteering."

Q: When did you start?

A: It's been about a year. I was elected chairman of the board in December and started in January. And one of the first things we needed to do was recruit more volunteers. Our board can have 30. We had six, and only about four were very active. So we contacted the media. Now, we have 27 people on the board.

Q: What were you looking for?

A: Diversification is very important everywhere you look. Ethnicity, background, gender, anything you can think of. Career backgrounds. So I compiled a list of who do we have, where are the gaps, and I created my request to the media. And our prayers have been answered. We are now training all those volunteers so we can make our board efficient.

Q: Do they all have fundraising responsibility?

A: Fundraising is not our top priority for 2023. We get tips but law enforcement doesn't provide the disposition on the tips we pass on to them. Therefore, we don't pay out to a lot of people. If we educate law enforcement, we're going to start getting the disposition of those tips and we're going to be paying out more.

Q: What had been the biggest hurdle in getting that information?

A: The challenge is that we did not do a good job as a board — and not because the board was bad — but with only four or five people for the entire state of Minnesota, it was very hard to keep up with the education for law enforcement to understand what we do and how we work. So it's educational. We have to do it every year. Then fundraising will become critical.

Q: What role does Crime Stoppers play?

A: A lot of people are afraid to get involved. We are here for the people who don't want to get involved.