Name: Jason Issacson
Title: Senator, District 42
Education: B.S., political science, M.S., communications, North Dakota State University; doctoral candidate, communications with a focus on political and interpersonal communications, University of Minnesota.
As student body president at North Dakota State University, Rep. Jason Issacson, DFL-Shoreview, signed off on a $1 million-dollar budget for student services, financed by mandatory student fees approved by student legislators.
“It connected the dots for me between how making a policy decision that spends money affects people’s lives,” Isaacson said. “It’s just much bigger and more real here.”
Isaacson, an instructor at Century College, is serving his first term as a senator after two consecutive House terms. The Senate’s four-year terms and typically shorter days appealed to him in part because he and his wife have three children ages 3 and younger.
“It’s forced me to be much more articulate and refined in my arguments,” Isaacson said of his move to the Senate.
Q. What’s the best way to start a conversation with you?
A. Just say, “Hey, Jason” or “Senator Isaacson, I have a question for you.” I’m a verbal processor so I really like to have those conversations. I like people to feel like they’ve been heard and like they can talk to me — and even if we don’t agree I’m not judging them.
Q. Who was the first presidential candidate you voted for and why?
A. Bill Clinton. Because I at the time thought Ross Perot was crazy and I thought George Bush was an extension of Reagan, and I wanted to be done with the Reagan era.
Q. What books are on your bedside table or e-reader?
A. First of all science fiction; if it’s got lasers, aliens or spaceships, I’ll read it. I also like things like Malcolm Gladwell’s “Outliers” and “David and Goliath.” I like ones like “Freakonomics,” the books that ask us to break out of what we get locked into thinking and to see things from other perspectives.
Q. What is a pet peeve of yours?
A. People who drive slow in the fast lane, the left lane. Or people who are stopped at red lights and don’t go forward. Inconsiderate drivers.
Q. What’s a favorite activity outside your job?
A. I’ve got a real serious fishing problem. I coach youth football and I love fishing.
Q. How has an event or person inspired you?
A. I worked in D.C. for a short time for Congressman Earl Pomeroy. He said, “If you ever go into politics … you need to find something to define you that has nothing to do with politics.” I took that advice and went back to college and knew within the first five minutes of the first class I ever taught that that’s what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.
Q. What would be one way to end partisan polarization?
A. Get the dark money out of politics and make people run on their own issues and pay for their campaigns, or do public financing of campaigns. The other way to do it is to have the electorate take more responsibility for who they elect. There are good Republicans and good Democrats who want to see the world become a better place and other ones who want to be personally aggrandized.
Q. What is something very few people know about you?
A. I was a high school dropout. I graduated from an alternative school. I’ve been clean and sober for 27 years. I dropped out after football season my senior year and worked for a little while and realized I had made a horrible decision. Ended up going back to this community high school. It changed my life. School made sense to me and it was probably the first time I ever got good grades. Then the counselor told me I needed to go to college. I’m a huge proponent of alternative public schools. I don’t think we have enough of them. I’m trying to get a recover high school started.
Our one-size-fits-all cookie-cutter approach to education just doesn’t work very well. It doesn’t play to people’s strengths. It plays to the lowest common denominator and that’s just not a health way for us to approach it in a global economy.