I'm from a family defined by duty and service: my mom's dad was a chaplain in the Battle of the Bulge, and my dad's father was a medic in the Pacific, while my three uncles served in Vietnam too. That legacy of public service is what led me to teaching – and what inspired me to run for office.
I was born on Andrew's Air Force base, and I was still very young when the family moved across the country to California so my father could work in computers. He started his own company in our garage—you might expect a Microsoft or Google success story—but it didn't work out. When he tried to re-enter the tech workforce, he couldn't find a job, so he volunteered at the library, teaching computer literacy to underprivileged children. Meanwhile, my mother worked as a hotel maid and retail clerk to pay the bills, even as she volunteered at a food bank (where she still volunteers).
I went to college at a big state school in California, where I ran track and studied communication. Almost 20 years ago, I came to Minnesota to go to graduate school at the University of Minnesota. Along the way, I taught. I taught second graders and sixth graders, and I taught at the U and at community college.
Now, I teach about communication and democracy at the College of St. Benedict and St. John's University, where I've taught for the past 16 years. My wife, Laurie, is in education too. She used to be a counsellor and assistant principal at South Junior High, but for the past three years, she's been the principal at Kennedy Community School. Education is a big concern of ours; dinner table conversation, which includes our kids as well—Eliza (14) and Phineas (12), who both go to South.
I do workshops on critical thinking, citizenship, and community for teachers in the public schools throughout central Minnesota and in the criminal justice system. I volunteer around town, donating my spring break to South High to teach English, and serve on Granite City Rotary Club and the board of directors at two local nonprofits.
Our area has adopted Greater! as its motto. That's both a description and a goal. My commitment as a legislator will be to make it become ever more true, for us here in St. Cloud, Waite Park, and St. Augusta and for our state.