Minnesota House of Representatives members have arrived in Winona and are taking time to learn in-depth what matters to people in Winona and the surrounding region during a historic mini-session.
More than 75% of House members decided to take part in the mini-session, a mix of both Democrats and Republicans.
Rep. Gene Pelowski, DFL-Winona, who has been elected to represent District 28A since 1986, said that mini-sessions are “about the politics of improving people’s lives.”
Throughout the three days that the representatives are in the area, they are holding roundtables, public hearings and other events. These events cover a range of topics, including taxes, education, health and more.
“We are here to listen,” Pelowski said. “We are not here to dictate or to try to say that one way, whether it’s the Republican way or the Democratic way, is better. We’re here to listen to the people of Winona and southeastern Minnesota.”
“This is a good opportunity,” Minority Leader Kurt Daudt added. “One of the most valuable things that will come from this probably is just building the relationships with people.”
He recognized that members of the two political parties seemed much less segregated during the mini-session than they normally are in St. Paul.
The representatives were introduced to Winona on Wednesday evening, attending a reception that included a presentation from Winona Mayor Mark Peterson.
Peterson covered different aspects of the city, showing the members all that Winona takes pride in. He shared the goals of the city, including the desire to become more connected with the state to help with work on different projects.
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Other leaders of the community took to the podium to speak about different parts of the community, including the education and legal systems.
This week, representatives are also participating in tours of the city and different aspects of it, such as the newly opened Education Village at Winona State University.
At the WSU campus Thursday, after the tour of the village, students and faculty were able to tell their stories and what they believe is important about education. Members of education-related committees were able to hear what those at the university believe should be the goals of the Legislature.
The mini-session in Winona this week is the first time House members have had one of these types of sessions in 22 years.
From 1987 to 1997, representatives and their staff traveled the state, learning what matters to people in different regions of Minnesota. They took time to visit 14 areas, including Winona and Rochester in September 1989.
In a Winona Daily News article that revealed how much the Winona 1989 mini-session cost, which was estimated by Pelowski to be about $3,000 to $4,000, then Winona Chamber Director Tom Tourville said, “The exposure to Winona is phenomenal. For southeastern Minnesota to have a vision and an opportunity for business and government to share their ideas and concerns with legislators is phenomenal.”
Pelowski led the way to being able to bring the mini-sessions back, insisting for a trip to Winona specifically.
With the help of community leaders, along with House of Representatives staff, Pelowski’s goal of bringing the mini-session back to the city was possible.
Thirty-five to 45 organizers helped contribute to the mini-session, including those in education, the city and other area organizations. One of the first organizers Pelowski contacted was WSU president Scott Olson, as he hoped that the institution would help anchor the mini-session.
The mini-session is set to conclude in Winona on Friday.