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Breaking the Ice: Policy ‘storyteller’ also loves sports

Name: Pahoua Yang Hoffman

Title: Policy director, Citizens League

Education: Bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and a master’s degree in business administration from the University of St. Thomas

Pahoua Yang Hoffman is less policy wonk than storyteller, conveying to legislators and potential funders what the St. Paul-based Citizens League is doing.

Hoffman joined the small nonprofit two years ago after seven years as manager of government affairs for Twin Cities Public Television. She was born in Laos and spent a year in a Thai refugee camp before she and her parents immigrated to the United States.

She helped organize Capitol Pathways, which this session placed 25 college students of color from around the state in paid internships at government offices, nonprofits and lobbying firms. She also helped complete a Citizens League task force report that this month recommended reforms for the Metropolitan Council.

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

A. [Ask] “How do I pronounce your name?” Especially at the Capitol, they may have seen me at meetings but didn’t quite catch my name. I always joke about how my name doesn’t have a hard consonant. When I say “Pahoua,” [Pa-WHO-ah] it just kind of goes right out the other ear. Or ask, “What are you working on right now?”

Q. What books are on your bedside table or e-reader?

A. There’s a television show that just concluded called “The People v. O.J. Simpson.” When the case happened in ’94 I was in college. I remember some highlights like the Bronco chase and the glove that didn’t fit, but I really didn’t pay attention to it. So I started reading all the books on it. I just came back from a beach vacation, so that’s what I brought on my Kindle.

Q. What is a pet peeve of yours?

A. Checking your electronics during meetings, especially a one-on-one. It’s really distracting.

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

A. I love to travel. In a job like mine, where there’s no clocking out, you’re always on the go and always on call for everybody. When I’m traveling, my bosses know I’m out. You need to recharge to come back and do good work. We were in Asia in 2010. I’ve been to Italy three times. I was in Paris right after the (November 2015) attacks. My sisters and I had booked the trip. We had an amazing time.

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

A. I live right on Eat Street in the Whittier neighborhood of Minneapolis. I would start off with a meal at Quang Restaurant on Nicollet Avenue, which I firmly believe is the most diverse place in the metro. You will see all races, all ethnic groups, all socioeconomic classes. They all end up at Quang’s. No matter who you are, no one is preferred; you’re going to sit and wait your 15 or 20 minutes to get a table like everybody else. And we all love the food.

Q. What’s something very few people know that you?

A. I listen to sports radio and I’m a big baseball geek. Growing up, all the women were cooking in the kitchen and all the guys were watching sports, and I thought, “I want to be in that room.” That seemed like way more fun. I am a big Twins fan. But my husband is a big Red Sox fan, and he indoctrinated me. When we got married in 2005, our honeymoon was to Fenway Park. We got to see them play and had our names in lights on the center field scoreboard. That’s probably a highlight of my life.

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