Deb Henton
North Branch Area Public Schools

Recently, I attended a candidate forum where the audience was composed of school board members, principals, district office staff, and superintendents. The candidates were vying for seats in the MN Legislature and one for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Nearing the end of the panel discussion, I was able to ask those who had already served in office what they would really like to hear from us when we come to visit them at the capitol.

The question I asked received a very personal response that was followed by more comments from the veteran office holders about how they really want their visitors to first get to know them as people. They asked the audience to please ask them about their children, their grandkids, or their areas of work, and then talk to them about whatever is the purpose of their visit.

As the forum was held toward the end of the campaign season, it was clear that at least one of the candidates had faced intense personal attacks and was in need of constituents who would just treat him/her as a person. Yet, that sentiment was echoed by all seasoned legislatures, who appeared eager to respond to the question. The replies were soft in tone yet firm, and such poignant reminders to always remember the person first, not the position.

The election results are in and now is our chance to get to know our representatives as people. The message we heard that night resonated with many of us who also wish the same from those we serve-get to know us as people.

In addition, the panelists asked us to come and tell them what is working. They are eager to hear stories of success and seemed committed to moving forward programs that are proven to be effective. We’ve got that covered!

Whatever the future holds I am confident that, as educators and legislators, we can do great things for students, families, and communities. Let’s start with the premise that we are all just people – with families, hopes, and dreams – who all want the very best for the communities we serve.

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