The 2019 state legislative session started on Jan. 8, and this is keeping the League of Minnesota Cities Intergovernmental Relations (IGR) team—aka, lobbyists—very busy. They love to advocate at the Capitol on behalf of our member cities. We thought this would be the perfect opportunity to ask them a few questions to help you get to know them. To learn more about them, including the issues they work on, visit www.lmc.org/igr-staff.
Let’s start from the beginning. Where did you grow up? Where did you go to college? What was your major?
GARY CARLSON, IGR DIRECTOR: I grew up in Fairfax County, Virginia, but I spent many summers in the Martin County area of southern Minnesota. I majored in political science and history at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota.
ANNE FINN, ASSISTANT IGR DIRECTOR: I grew up in Robbinsdale, Minnesota. I majored in government at the College of Saint Benedict in St. Joseph, Minnesota. I also completed my master’s degree in public administration at Hamline University in St. Paul.
CRAIG JOHNSON, IGR REPRESENTATIVE: I lived in many Minnesota cities as a kid, including Warren, Bemidji, Menagha, Glenwood, Swift Falls, Silver Lake, Spicer, and Montevideo. I went to Gustavus Adolphus College and had a double major in philosophy and classics.
IRENE KAO, IGR COUNSEL: I was born and raised in Fergus Falls. I majored in English and psychology at the University of Minnesota. I later received my master’s degree in college student personnel at the University of Maryland, and then got my law degree at the Mitchell Hamline School of Law in St. Paul.
DANIEL LIGHTFOOT, IGR REPRESENTATIVE: I grew up in Plymouth, Minnesota, and majored in political science at the University of Minnesota.
ANN LINDSTROM, IGR REPRESENTATIVE: I grew up in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. I went to college at St. Cloud State University, where I majored in cultural anthropology and minored in religious studies. I received a master’s degree in public policy from the University of Minnesota Humphrey School of Public Affairs.
How long have you been a lobbyist? How long with the League?
GARY: I’ve been a lobbyist for 35 years— 27 with the League.
ANNE F.: I’ve been a lobbyist for 18 years, all with the League.
CRAIG: This is my 30th session lobbying at the Capitol. I’ve been lobbying with the League for 15 years.
IRENE: I’ve been a lobbyist for three years—all three as the League’s IGR Counsel (which means, in addition to lobbying, I also serve as legal counsel for the IGR Department).
DANIEL: I’ve been a lobbyist for almost five years. I am new to the IGR team—I just joined the League in December.
ANN L.: I’ve been lobbying nine years— six with the League.
Was there something in particular that made you want to advocate for cities?
GARY: I started my lobbying career with the City of Minneapolis, and I found the policy issues confronting cities to be complex and challenging. I continue to enjoy the challenge.
ANNE F.: I like lobbying for cities because I think local government is the most visible and accessible level of government. In many ways, the public judges the value of government from the services they receive from cities. It is rewarding to advocate for policies that directly benefit the public.
CRAIG: Before coming to the League, I had been working on water issues at the state Capitol. I knew we needed improvements in water quality. To make that improvement happen, there was a tremendous need for better programs, funding, and understanding of city water and wastewater infrastructure needs. I enjoy working to meet those needs.
IRENE: Prior to joining the IGR Department, I was a staff attorney in the League’s Research Department, and I loved working with cities. When a great opportunity came up to advocate for cities at the Capitol, I jumped at it. It was a great way to combine my municipal law experience with my desire to help cities on public policy issues.
DANIEL: I have always been fascinated with the wide array of issues that impact local governments and how local governments have become one of the most powerful engines of growth. I like being able to play a role in encouraging units of government to work together as agents of change to meet today’s challenges.
ANN L.: Cities are the closest level of government to Minnesotans. Therefore, they need as many resources as possible to provide the highest level of service. It is very rewarding to help ensure that our members have those resources.
How do you prepare for a new legislative session?
GARY: All House seats were on the ballot in November, so one of my first priorities for this year’s session was to meet these new House members and staff, along with rekindling professional relationships with returning members.
ANNE F.: I touch base with key committee chairs and League allies. I also stock my office with healthy snacks, mints, and to-go coffee cups.
CRAIG: I always schedule meetings with the governor’s staff, agency commissioners, key legislators, and other interests that I know will be working on similar issues. I use this time to compare plans and goals.
IRENE: After the League’s robust legislative policy-setting and adoption process, I meet with stakeholders and legislators before the new session starts. It is nice to establish or continue relationships with those in my issue areas.
DANIEL: Since this is my first session with the League, I spent a great deal of time getting up to speed on our policy initiatives. I also always reach out to newly elected and re-elected members of the Legislature to determine what their policy priorities for the session may be.
ANN L.: LMC legislative policy committee meetings in the summer and Regional Meetings in the fall greatly inform our work and help prepare us for each legislative session. Right before session, I also like to meet with other stakeholder groups about the issues I plan to work on.
One more question just for fun. What is one thing you can tell us about yourself that most people don’t know?
GARY: As the son of an employee of the U.S. Department of Justice, I grew up visiting many federal prisons, including the four in Minnesota.
ANNE F.: I have a motorcycle license.
CRAIG: I grew up living and working on turkey farms.
IRENE: When I was 8 years old, I started working at my parent’s Chinese restaurant in Fergus Falls.
DANIEL: I love to sing! I almost majored in vocal performance, but settled on singing with some outstanding choirs.
ANN L.: I was in synchronized swimming for three summers at the local city swimming pool.
Meet the Organizer!
The LMC lobbyists are usually running in a million different directions—especially during the legislative session—so they need someone to help them stay organized. That’s where Ted Bengtson comes in. Ted is the new IGR administrative coordinator, and he handles things like communicating with members about legislative issues, coordinating the legislative policy committee activities, and generally proving support and assistance to the lobbyists.
Ted is excited about his new role and “the chance to engage our city leaders with the Legislature.” He says he’s always had a passion for good government—especially at the city level, where officials are closest to their constituents.
Although he grew up in Arizona, Ted was born in Byron, Minnesota, and returned to his roots to study political science at the University of Minnesota. We’re glad he’s sticking around! If you have any questions about legislative issues or activities, feel free to contact Ted at firstname.lastname@example.org.