Labor, business work in Sparks’ background

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 11, 2002

AUSTIN &045; His father worked whole his life there, and he worked there, too. Hormel Foods means a lot to DFL Senate candidate Dan Sparks. The line work at the Fortune 500 company not only taught him the value of hard work, but also gave him insight into issues surrounding labor.

&uot;For three years I worked inside the Hormel plant, worked alongside other hardworking men and women who just basically live from a paycheck to paycheck,&uot; he said. &uot;It’s hard for someone that has not actually been inside the plant to really understand what those workers go through.&uot;

Now he works as a loan officer at the Farmers and Merchants State Bank in Austin, where he takes care of financing a number of small businesses. Sparks thinks his broad-based knowledge of business and labor qualifies him as a state senator representing the region. He’s running for the District 27 seat now held by Grace Schwab, R-Albert Lea. The district covers all of Freeborn and Mower counties and part of Fillmore County.

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&uot;Even though I am not really that old, I still have a variety of experiences that I can speak about knowledgeably,&uot; the 34-year-old DFLer said. &uot;Unless you get involved in the Chamber and small businesses here, you don’t know what it takes to make those small businesses up and down main street. They are so vital to our local economy.&uot;

Investments in the future, especially in education and health care, compose Sparks’ main platform.

Sparks is concerned that a good public education, and a healthy and safe environment in the region he enjoyed, are in jeopardy because of the state budget crisis.

He said he would oppose further cuts in education funding and implement some type of reform to alleviate health care costs. The funding should prioritize those two areas, and if necessary, he thinks some &uot;fair&uot; tax increases can be employed as a last resort. He would also challenge spending skewed toward the metro area, leaving behind rural Minnesota.

Born and raised in Austin, Sparks also spent a lot of his time on a family farm near Hayfield owned by his grandparents.

His college years, his only period being away from southern Minnesota, brought Sparks a chance to have a taste of politics in St. Paul.

His mother, Faye used to work for the late DFL Gov. Rudy Perpich, and now for Sen. James Metzen, DFL-South St. Paul. While studying education at the University of Minnesota, Sparks spent a lot of time visiting the state capitol and helping DFL campaigns. And he believes that he can exploit that tie to protect rural Minnesota interests in the Senate, currently controlled by the DFL.

&uot;One senator can’t go up there amongst 67 other senators and just tell them what to do, obviously. I’m not so bold to think that,&uot; Sparks said. &uot;However, by forming alliances and relationships, I think the rural legislators have to come together, in some cases across the party line, to make sure that we rural Minnesota can compete with the metro area.&uot;