Tell us about yourself. Family, education, career, hobbies, etc.
I grew up on a small grains and beef farm east of Lake Bronson, MN. If you have been to Lake Bronson state Park, you have been in my neighborhood as my family’s land borders the park to the north. I attended school in Karlstad, MN and then the University of North Dakota. While at UND, I determined the Air Force was a better path for me so I enlisted for 4 years and ended up retiring 21 years later. I served at Hahn AB, West Germany, McChord AFB in Tacoma, WA, Grand Forks AFB, Al Udied AB, Qatar, and back to Grand Forks AFB where I retired. I also served two deployments to Saudi Arabia, two to Incirlik AB, Turkey, and Shiek Isa AB, Bahrain. During my Air Force career, my first five years were in base supply, mostly supporting F-16 and ground launched cruise missile units with parts. After that, I cross trained to Information Management at the time this field was transitioning to desktop computer support so I worked with installing and maintaining computer systems and networks.
As my career progressed, I took on more supervisory and training roles and in my last position was responsible for training and equipping 54 personnel. I also took on more in the budgeting function and in one assignment was responsible for a $1 million annual budget. After retirement and armed with my GI Bill, I returned to UND and earned a BS in Recreation and Tourism. I interned at the East Grand Forks Park and Recreation Department and then on to Special Olympics North Dakota. I have also worked at Ideal Aerosmith as an Office Coordinator and Northwest Regional Corrections Center as a Corrections Officer. Currently I work at New Flyer in Crookston as an Assembler of transit buses.
My amazing wife Constance and I have been married almost four years now. She is a Senior Biofuels Analyst for Christianson PLLP. I have two sons, Tanner and Tyler, that attended East Grand Forks schools, played youth and high school hockey in EGF and lacrosse for the Grand Cities Lacrosse Association. Both currently attend Winona State University as pre-law majors and play on the club lacrosse team. Connie has an adult son, Andrew, that lives in Burnsville and works in Minneapolis.
I have hunted and fished my whole life although chasing the kids through their activities has taken me away from that the past 10 years. My wife and I homebrew beer and our homebrewed beers have won blue ribbons the past three years at the Polk County Fair. We also enjoy riding motorcycle during the summer
Why did you decide to run for office and what makes you the person for the job?
It wasn’t necessarily a social issue or legislative priority that drew me into running, it was about citizens participating in their government. There was only a 61% voter turnout in 2016. In Minnesota, six house races were uncontested. In East Grand Forks, the Mayor and four city council races were uncontested. Nationwide, 42% of state representative seats were unopposed by a major party opponent. Citizens deserve a choice, an opportunity for meaningful debate, an opportunity to exercise democracy. When there's no choice but to stick with the status quo or when there's no one who represents my beliefs in a representative government, that's not democracy
I believe it is a personal responsibility to serve your community. My parents set a great example for me by serving on township, church, and co-op boards as well as being active in their local American Legion and Auxiliary. Then, during my time in the Air Force, Service Before Self was a core value that reinforced being an involved citizen. Through my assignments I have volunteered as numerous community events, served as a scout leader, youth football coach and official, EGF Blue Line Club board member, and founded, coached and served as President of Grand Cities Lacrosse Association as well as elected to the Minnesota Lacrosse Association board of directors. I am at a place in my life, my family is at a place in time, that I felt it was my time to serve, and considering my military service, to continue to serve. That has been my top priority, to provide a choice, and break up the status quo.
How would you keep (rural) Greater Minnesota in the forefront in St. Paul?
I feel the best way to keep rural Minnesota in the forefront in St. Paul is to form relationships with metro area legislators to learn what is important to them and their district and in return educate them on the priorities for the rural districts and help them understand how that matters and how a healthy rural Minnesota is a healthy metro Minnesota…is a healthy Minnesota. With the majority of population in just the five county Minneapolis/St. Paul area, way more than half of the legislative representation is also from that area and representing urban issues. They can quite simply decide that they are going to focus on the metro area and cut off the rural districts and focus their attention and resources on the metro sending only scraps to the rural districts. I won’t let that happen, I will work with all my peers in St. Paul to make sure nobody forgets about rural Minnesota or District 1B.
What’s the first issue you will try to tackle if elected?
There is so much to choose from. As a freshman representative, there will be a lot going on when I get to St. Paul. I expect a lot of my work will depend on what committees I am assigned to. But with my top priorities being affordable and accessible healthcare, fully and sustainably funding education, and two years of tuition free education at state community colleges and universities, those would be the bigger issues I want to be a part of. The #1 thing would be health care. With several options being discussed during various campaigns, it may be expanding eligibility for MNCARE, Medicare Buy-in, or the Minnesota Health Plan; we need to enact legislation to make healthcare affordable and accessible for the 6% of Minnesotans that need to buy on the exchange and reduce premiums and increase coverage for the rest.
Are there any former MN legislators you’ve looked up to? If so, name one or two of their accomplishments and why you looked up to them.
Though not a state level legislator, Hubert Humphrey is somebody that has always resonated with me in Minnesota politics. Starting out as an educator, in 1944 he was a key player in merger of the Democrat and Farmer-Labor Parties into the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party and then fight for its survival against Communists that worked to take the party over. First elected as Mayor of Minneapolis, he catapulted to the U.S. Senate, the first Minnesota Democrat elected to the Senate since the Civil War, where he was a catalyst for civil rights. From the Peace Corps to Medicare, his fingerprints were all over Washington D.C. and the world during his time in the Senate. With Presidential aspirations, he did ascend to the Vice Presidency under Lyndon Johnson. Yes, Hubert Humphrey would be somebody I would look up to.
Another, again, not a state legislator, would be Bob Bergland. Growing up in Roseau and serving three terms as Congressman from District 7 then on to Secretary of Agriculture under President Carter.
Vice President Humphrey and Secretary Bergland are great examples of small town men with Minnesota backgrounds that have made substantial impact on national policy, as well as the world.
If you could go back in time and have the career your 6-year-old self wanted you to have, what would that be?
When I was 6 years old, my dad was a farmer and that is what I wanted to be so I too could play with the big tractors like he got to. I went with him to the field every chance I got. When I couldn’t, I played in the garden with the Ertl replica tractor I received from the Massey Ferguson dealer in Kennedy, MN that was the miniature version of the tractor my dad had purchased there. If not a farmer, I wanted to be the road grader guy. I used to love to watch the gravel discharge from the end of the blade when the grader went by and the perfect, smooth road left behind. One year I got a Tonka road grader from Santa Claus and I graded and plowed miles of roads in the garden and snowbanks in the yard. A few years later when I began to drive, I always wanted to be the first to drive on a freshly graded road to make my mark.
Tell us something unique about yourself that not many people know. Special talents? Fun collections?
I already mentioned the homebrewing of beer, so I would have to say not as many people know about my involvement in youth sports. If you have been to an arena before 2016, you might have run into me as my boys both played hockey. That is what brought me to the EGF Blue Line Club, first to work on the Fundraising Committee for the Blue Line Club Arena, then was twice elected to the board of directors. In the spring and summer, I pushed what had been a team of local EGF boys into a regional organization for multiple age groups and teams that formed under that name are still playing today. My boys branched out into lacrosse and I founded and managed the Grand Cities Lacrosse Association to not only give my kids a chance to play this wonderful game, but so that all kids have the opportunity. It started as one team, now it is 11 teams at six age groups, the Varsity just won their second league championship in three years. Besides being a board member for Grand Cities Lacrosse, I also served on the board for the Minnesota Lacrosse Association. As far as collections, I have started many but the one I would like to get back to is my collection of HO scale electric trains with locomotives and rolling stock modeled after what I saw on the Soo Line in my hometown in the 70s and 80s. It has been boxed up for too long as so many other things have taken up my time and I need a space to set them up.