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Breaking the Ice: Business background shapes lawmaker’s approach

Rep. Barb Haley

Rep. Barb Haley

Name: Barb Haley

Title: Representative, District 21A

Education: B.A., international studies, University of St. Thomas

Rep. Barb Haley, R-Red Wing, brought 15 years of corporate experience to her first term at the Capitol and quickly explains how the two worlds differ.

“Legislation is so hard to pass,” Haley said. “In business you would never say, ‘Half of you go into this room and come up with a solution and half of you go into this other room and don’t talk to each other and then we’ll come together and debate or fight over the solution.’

“It’s just a very different process to get things done — and I like to get things done.”

Haley, who also has worked in education and nonprofits, put her consulting work on hold to campaign. She and her husband have two children, so now, Haley said, “my second job is being a mom.”

Q. What’s the best way to start a conversation with you?

A. I love people’s stories. I’m interested in people. I think I’m pretty approachable. I always tell my kids everybody’s got a story, everybody’s life has a path. … I like to know people on that level and then work with them on issues.

Q. Who was the first presidential candidate you voted for and why?

A. Reagan. [I] graduated in ’82. I just remember being very intrigued with his candidacy as an actor. That was the big thing they talked about, not necessarily his experience as a governor. But it was, “How could an actor be a president?”

Q. What is a pet peeve of yours?

A. In addition to snoring? When people don’t come to an issue with integrity. Differences of opinion, that’s what the world’s all about. I love that. But I value integrity most highly, so things that feel disingenuous or manipulative — that doesn’t flow with me.

Q. What’s a favorite activity outside your job?

A. I love to be outside. I run, I bike; in the winter I ski cross-country. And now this winter I didn’t do any.

Q. If someone visits you in your hometown, what would you take them to see or do?

A. Southeastern Minnesota, the bluffs are beautiful. When you can get on top of the Barn Bluff and you see the whole river valley, it just informs you of the history of the town.

Q. How has an event or person inspired you?

A. My parents. They’re both fighters, had interesting life stories where things weren’t easy and charted their own paths to successful endeavors and multiple different careers … kind of ahead of their time. They’ve always inspired me and supported me to do whatever I wanted to do. Their philosophy, and I’ve carried this on for my kids, was to give me and my two sisters strong roots and wings. I believe that’s important. Kids are grounded in their family and in their community and in their values — and yet encourage them to fly wherever their interests or their skills take them.

Q. What would be one way to end partisan polarization?

A. People getting to know each other. … Up here the challenge is the time. We have this compressed session and all want to get so much done, so where is the time to sit down when you’re not on the floor of the House debating the issue to talk about it without those partisan hats? That would help. Coming at it from a business perspective, you negotiate deals all the time. You come to the table with different views, but you find sometimes a third solution. This is a difficult environment to find that third solution in.

Q. Is there someone at the Capitol who does a lot of work without getting a lot of credit?

A. House research, partisan and nonpartisan research. I didn’t know as a constituent what the staff was like or the resources that are here; the library. There are amazing resources here and talented people that work tremendous hours to help senators and legislators craft good legislation.

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