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Breaking the Ice: Freshman lawmaker from Duluth ‘trained to care’

Rep. Liz Olson

Rep. Liz Olson

Name: Liz Olson

Title: Representative, District 7B

Education: B.A, sociology, University of Minnesota Duluth; M.A., congregational and community care, Luther Seminary

Rep. Liz Olson, DFL-Duluth, says her husband jokes she was “trained to care,” with a degree in sociology, a master’s from Luther Seminary and parents who served as pastors throughout the state.

That sense of caring is what prompted the freshman lawmaker to run for office.

“I live in Duluth, I represent Duluth, and I just really love Duluth,” Olson said. “It’s how I could put my love into action for the people that I care about in my district and for our state as a whole.”

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

A. Approaching with a genuine curiosity and authenticity to whatever we’re going to talk about. I really appreciate hearing people’s stories about what’s really in someone’s gut and heart around an issue they care about.

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

A. Al Gore. I was in college and had become close with the president of the College Democrats. I remember sitting in the [dorm] lounge and hearing a fierce debate between my friend and the College Republican person around the presidential election. That sort of solidified for me my first presidential vote.

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

A. As a legislator who commutes from Duluth and the parent of a toddler, I can honestly tell you what’s on my bed stand is a slide whistle and a copy of “The Cat in the Hat.” But I do listen to a lot of audio books and podcasts as I travel.

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

A. Part of the reason I love Duluth is our outdoor recreation opportunities. I love being in the woods with my family, hiking or exploring. Running on trails is probably one of my biggest joys in life.

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

A. This is something I think about all the time because I love Duluth so much and I love getting people to love Duluth as much as I do. We could stay in my district and have a pretty awesome day. We could go out to breakfast the Duluth Grill in Lincoln Park. Then get out in the woods. The Superior Hiking Trail, some of the most beautiful sections are in Duluth. Then go to Park Point. The Park Point beach is gorgeous any time of year. Having a good local beer made from the best water in the world is essential. We’d go to Bent Paddle Brewing Co., which brews my favorite beer. I shouldn’t be partial, but I am.

Q. How has an event or person inspired you?

A. I’m incredibly inspired by a number of the women here that are newly elected to the House. I have some of the most amazing colleagues that I’m getting to know and care about.

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

A. It’s relationships, getting to know each other’s families and stories. I got to know a number of my colleagues across the aisle through interacting with their children. Whether they’re in the retiring room or it’s in the Capitol or they have a kid with them in committee or on the floor. That’s a real bridge builder.

Q. The highlight or lowlight of your daily commute to work is?

A. One of my favorite parts of the week is going home and cresting Thompson Hill and seeing the [Aerial Lift] Bridge and the lake and knowing that I’m home.

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

A. House photography. I was talking with one of the photographers. He’s been here for quite a while, and every week he can still make this seem really interesting and engaging and really bring people in and tell a story through taking photos on the House floor or committee or of groups visiting.

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