Austin woman challenges Sparks

Published 3:24 pm Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Austin school board member Kathy Green on Wednesday announced her candidacy for the Senate District 27 seat against two-term incumbent Dan Sparks, citing her experience and record of reform and results as reasons why she should be the district’s next senator.

Green, who calls herself a “professional volunteer” and who is also on numerous boards and committees in both Austin and on the state level, said running for state Senate as the Republican candidate against Sparks, a DFLer, has been in the back of her mind for quite a while.

During her campaign kickoff outside KATE Radio inside the Skyline Plaza, she said she sees a need for strong leadership at the state, especially considering the fiscal crisis that is expected in 2011.

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She said the current leaders have tried but failed in their attempts to remedy the state’s problems.

“We need a senator who can solve tough problems and get results,” Green said.

She noted she has experience with budgets and is responsible with them, whether it’s for her family, a private practice or the Austin School District.

She said when she was first elected to the Austin school board in 2000, the district was near statutory debt and at risk for being taken over by the state. She helped turn that around within three years and re-established the district on solid financial footing.

While her passion is for education, Green said she has developed an understanding of the issues facing the region. She noted that she thinks the state needs to get its financial house in order.

Her announcement came on the same day Green filed for re-election to the school board in Austin. Green made an announcement in Austin later Wednesday.

Sparks filed papers Wednesday in Mower County seeking a third term as state senator.

He said he is proud of the work accomplished by the Legislature this year, including the bonding bill, and he looks forward to continuing that work in 2011.

“Just like when you drive a car, you don’t look out the rearview mirror,” Sparks said. “I think there’s still some work that we’d like to complete.”

The senator also said he has a personal stake in the election.

“I was born and raised here (in Austin), so the decisions I make in St. Paul don’t just affect voters, they affect my friends, my family, the people I grew up with,” Sparks said. “I take this job very seriously.”

Albert Lea school board member Bill Leland, who is on Green’s campaign committee, said he has known Green for a little more than 10 years through school board work. He said she has expertise on budgets and is a common sense leader.

“She will not let this financial crisis continue,” Leland said.

Freeborn County Republican Party Chairman Al Arends also showed his support for the candidate.

“We’re going to really be behind her all the way,” Arends said.

In addition to her work with the Austin school board, Green was elected by members of school boards in southeastern Minnesota to represent them as a director at the state level.

She has been appointed twice by Gov. Tim Pawlenty to the Public Employee Retirement Association Board of Trustees, where she worked with stakeholders to craft bipartisan pension reform legislation that will save state taxpayers $2 billion over the next five years.

In previous years she has also served on the Compensation Council for Minnesota’s 1st Congressional District, the Minnesota Academic Standards in Mathematics Revision Committee, the Minnesota Early Learning Foundation, among others.

She has served in other capacities in Austin, including the Austin Charter Commission, the Austin Park, Recreation and Forestry Committee and also was the chairwoman of the successful $20 million referendum to build and renovate school facilities in Austin in 1990.

She is a 1981 graduate of the University of Minnesota, holding two degrees.

She and her husband have raised five children.

— Austin Daily Herald reporter Mike Rose contributed to this story.