Title: General government policy analyst, Association of Minnesota Counties
Education: B.A., political science and history, University of Minnesota
Matt Hilgart appreciates the opportunity to work with legislators from across the state as general government policy analyst at the St. Paul-based Association of Minnesota Counties.
“I get to talk to folks on both sides of the aisle and from every area of the state,” Hilgart said. “That is a huge benefit, the diversity of thought, of personalities that I get to work with. It’s great to be able to work in a bipartisan nature, especially in a partisan era.”
Hilgart joined the association in 2014 after 2½ years in communications in U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum’s office, 27 months in Jordan with the Peace Corps and a lobbyist internship with the city of Minneapolis.
“I like it because it makes you have to be well-versed at the policy, the communications and the sales aspect of it,” said Hilgart, a native of Pewaukee, Wisconsin, who moved west to attend the University of Minnesota.
Q. What’s the best way to start a conversation with you?
A. A smile, hello and how are you is one of the most disarming things. If that fails, complement me on how good the Packers are.
Q. Who was the first presidential candidate you voted for and why?
A. When I was a [high school] senior they did a mock election and I voted for George Bush. He was personable. There was a certain amount of trust I had in his presentation. The first real candidate I voted for legally was President Obama.
Q. What books are on your bedside table or e-reader?
A. I’ve been immersed in Robert Caro’s “Master of the Senate,” which to me is a Ph.D. in political science, political power. If you read his entire series about LBJ it is as worthwhile as a degree in political science.
Q. What is a pet peeve of yours?
A. Rehearsed political statements or speeches. It’s easy to go through the theatrics or throwing out political taglines. The harder thing is for folks to sit down, have a safe space to talk about their thoughts and feel comfortable enough to acknowledge that perhaps they have areas where they can learn or change or redirect their preconceived notions.
Q. What’s a favorite activity outside your job?
A. I live in southeast Minneapolis so I love biking. I’m trying to teach myself some carpentry work around the home. I bought an old fixer-upper bungalow 1930s era home.
Q. If someone visits you in your hometown, what would you take them to see or do?
A. In Pewaukee we have a large lake, Pewaukee Lake, that’s a pretty fun place to go. I grew up just a few houses away from J.J. Watt. We used to play roller hockey in the cul-de-sac so I’d probably drive them by J.J.’s childhood home.
Q. What would be one way to end partisan polarization?
A. The current primary process seems to only select the extremes on both sides. Perhaps it would behoove someone to look at how we would include more Minnesotans in that candidate-selection process.
Q. Where do you like to eat lunch?
A. El Bravo, because of its proximity. I know the employees there and they know exactly what order I get. The green sauce on the enchiladas it’s a special request but if they have it they’ll put it on for you.
Q. What is something very few people know about you?
A. I’m a secret introvert and recharge after long days at session by coming home and drumming. Mostly to, like, Dave Matthews Band music. If anyone’s interested in starting a jam band, just let me know.
Q. Is there someone at the Capitol who you think does a lot of work without getting a lot of credit?
A. [Nonpartisan] House Research. They’re staying through the night during the end of session to draft legislation and to put conversations on paper. They’re doing it with little to no sleep, little to no recognition and for a salary that is much below their worth. They are unbelievable assets to our state.