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Breaking the Ice: DNR veteran navigates Capitol, outdoor pursuits

Name: Bob Meier

Title: Policy and government relations director, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

Education: Bachelor of Science, agricultural science, University of Wisconsin-River Falls; Bachelor of Science, environmental studies, policy and administration, University of Minnesota; Master of Public Administration, Hamline University

Bob Meier loves Minnesota’s outdoors and the Capitol’s political landscape. The agency veteran started at the Department of Natural Resources in 2003 after nearly 10 years in other state jobs.

He was a session-only page and committee clerk, though, when he figured out how things work at the Capitol.

“If you want to be a state agency and be successful, you have to have a good relationship with the Legislature,” Meier said. “If you have a bad relationship, you can’t get anything done.”

Meier, who also tends bar part time, credits that experience with helping him develop working relationships with legislators and others in state government.

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

A. By saying hello. I’m pretty open that way and we can go from there, especially if you want to talk about hunting and fishing. I did a lot of camping and hiking and things like that with my family. As I got older I was able to pursue some of my outdoor passions related to hunting, and now I just really love being out in the woods or on the water.

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

A. A book from an author named Gary Clancy who recently passed away after a long battle with cancer. It’s called “Hunting the Whitetail Rut.”

Q. What is a pet peeve of yours?

A. People who are obstinate and don’t want to try to solve things or make things better. If everybody comes to the table with a willingness to work together to achieve something, anything is possible.

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

A. I was born and raised on the east side of St. Paul. I’d take them around to see downtown, especially the new development around [CHS Field], some of the new places on Payne Avenue and probably take them up to Obb’s [Sports Bar and Grill] for dinner on the east side.

Q. Was there an event or person that inspired you?

A. I probably wouldn’t be here today if I hadn’t met Bob Lessard [former state senator and since 2011 special assistant to DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr] as I was tending bar one night at the Ground Round in 1989. I was an intern for him, then a Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee clerk for him. It’s been a lifelong friendship ever since.

Q. What’s one way to end partisan polarization?

A. Create more social gatherings, more social opportunities for members to get to know each other better, understand each other.

Q. What’s a highlight or lowlight of your daily commute?

A. Traffic. I live Afton right now. I can come up through the valley, down through the farm fields. So I’m coming from the woods to the farms to the cities and then to the office. I see a ton of wildlife so that’s nice.

Q. What is something very few people know about you?

A. I’ve been a bartender for about 30 years (now part time at Lake Elmo Inn). I started back in college. I have a strong customer service ethic and inherent desire to make sure people are happy. I can just shut off my whole Capitol thing and focus on making them happy.

Q. What’s your favorite hidden place at the Capitol?

A. When I need some time to myself or need to get some work done, I’ll to go up to the third floor on some of the benches up there. I have one spot in the Capitol that is my lucky spot. If I need to get something done I go there usually. I’ve had conversations there that have turned out in the end very lucky for me.

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