Guest Column: Rural Minnesota has benefited from Sen. Sparks

Published 10:25 am Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Guest Column by Heather Beckius

Heather Beckius is an Albert Lea resident and member of the Freeborn County DFL Party.

I listened to the recent debates between our candidates for Senate District 27. It has reinforced for me that Dan Sparks is not only the right choice, but also that our district is fortunate to be represented not by a partisan idealist who sees things in black and white, but by a regular guy with an open mind. He understands the value of compromise and has a track record of success in achieving it.

Heather Beckius

Heather Beckius

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Candidates are often asked what can be done to stop the gridlock at the Legislature, and we heard some reasonable answers to help the process. One thing that would make a difference, in my mind, is if we had more elected officials who did not believe that they already know what is best or right, but approached problems seeking solutions that work for everyone.

That is who Dan Sparks is, and rural Minnesota has benefited from it. During this last term, he received his first committee chairmanship. As chairman of the Senate Jobs, Agriculture and Rural Development Committee, he has pushed for renewed investments in the needs of Greater Minnesota. State funding for agriculture has reversed after years of neglect and received new investments in research, education, farm safety, emergency response and rural finance authority programs. He also authored legislation to create the new broadband grant program, which is important to quality of life and economic development in Greater Minnesota.

Another significant economic development issue he has been working on is workforce housing. I read Dan Dorman’s column in Albert Lea Tribune’s Impact magazine about workforce housing being a top priority for the Greater Minnesota Partnership. I know Sen. Sparks has worked closely with Mr. Dorman on this issue, securing funding for a grant program, which was part of the overall package to get new developments built. I was happy to hear Sen. Sparks recognized for doing his part to get the needed tax credit language in the Senate bill. I am sure if re-elected, he and the GMNP can work with the House to gain their support for this program as well.

Sen. Sparks has also consistently brought funding home for district projects. Some of the projects located in Albert Lea supported by state funding include Edgewater Park, renovations at Riverland Community College and the Main Street and Blazing Star Trail projects. I am also excited to see the results of the Fountain Lake restoration project.

There are many other examples that don’t involve physical changes, but can be even more valuable. Albert Lea Area Schools is one of only a handful of districts receiving a yearly grant — nearly a half million dollars — from the Compensatory Revenue Program. Sen. Sparks has worked to keep us in that program and stopped several efforts to do away with it.

Others I have spoken to agree. You can talk to Dan about any issue, and even if you disagree, he hears you out to understand your perspective and takes it to heart. He has served with different governors, the House of Representatives while controlled by either party, and in the majority and minority in the Senate. In each case he has been able to address the needs of our district and rural Minnesota. I hope you will join me in voting for him this election, so he can continue ensuring that our region is taken care of in the state senate.