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Jeremy Miller

Breaking the Ice: Striving for ‘persistent patience’ at Capitol

Name: Jeremy Miller

Title: Senator, District 28

Education: A.A.S. in accounting, Minnesota State College Southeast

Sen. Jeremy Miller, R-Winona, calls “extreme partisanship” his greatest frustration at the Capitol.

Miller joined then DFL Sen. Roger Reinert in 2013 to form the “Purple Caucus” of senators representing each party in nearly equal numbers.

“The main focus was to develop relationships and get to know each other,” Miller said. “We came out with some priorities and focused on those. It helped make a difference.”

A Purple Caucus sign is on display in Miller’s office, and he has ideas for reviving it. Momentum slowed last year after Reinert’s departure, an influx of new members and Miller’s appointment as a deputy minority leader and chair of the Senate Jobs and Economic Growth Committee.

A newly coined phrase — “persistent patience” — guides Miller as a lawmaker and fourth-generation owner of his family’s scrap recycling business.

“Whether I’m buying a load of scrap metal, working on legislation or teaching my young boys something new, you have to be persistent,” Miller said. “But at the same time it’s important to be patient to keep your stress level down.”

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

A. Start a conversation. I’m a very laid-back person. Any subject that’s important to the person I’m talking to I’m happy to engage and learn more about it.

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

A. George W. Bush. He was the first president that I was eligible to vote for. He led our country through a very difficult time (after the Sept. 11, 2011, terrorist attacks) … and earned my vote.

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

A. My all-time favorite is “Tuesdays with Morrie” by Mitch Albom. The book I’m reading now is “Riding with Reagan” by one of his Secret Service guys.

Q. What is a pet peeve of yours?

A. Dishonesty. I was brought up with the values of hard work, respect and honesty. I understand there are different negotiation techniques and strategies. I buy scrap metal for a living. I’m a state senator. I have three young kids at home. So I understand those techniques. But nothing bothers me more than when someone flat-out lies.

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

A. Spending time with family. We spend a lot of time on the Mississippi River swimming and fishing. My way to escape from everything is running. I leave my phone at home and go out for a run. It helps clear my mind.

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

A. Winona is a very historic community, and there’s a lot of natural beauty with the river, the lakes and the bluffs. Weather permitting, I would go for a hike up to Sugar Loaf [Bluff]. It’s one of the most spectacular views in the region. You see the city, the lakes, the river and across the river into Wisconsin.

Q. How has an event or person inspired you?

A. My parents. My mother has always taught me you don’t know if you don’t ask. Even if someone tells you no, that doesn’t necessarily mean no. My father taught me the importance of developing relationships.

At the Capitol, Sen. Dave Senjem. He believed in me as a 26-year-old candidate. Sen. Julie Rosen is one of my closest friends in the Senate. Probably my biggest mentor was the late Sen. Jim Metzen. He took me under his wing and taught me the importance of being a good statesman. For that I’ll be forever grateful.

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

A. Having less focus on one party trying to make the other party look bad and focusing on what’s best for the people in the state of Minnesota. When I’m working on legislation, I like to talk to folks on both sides. There’s nothing more effective than bringing people together and having a discussion. The more we can do that the more progress we’ll make.

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