Candidate doesn't forget from where he cameMINNEAPOLIS — Growing up in Worthington taught me why community matters. It brought me face-to-face with the challenges and opportunities for southwest Minnesota. And it taught me why Minnesotans in Worthington, and across the state, need a governor looking out for them.
By: Matt Entenza, Worthington Daily Globe
MINNEAPOLIS — Growing up in Worthington taught me why community matters. It brought me face-to-face with the challenges and opportunities for southwest Minnesota. And it taught me why Minnesotans in Worthington, and across the state, need a governor looking out for them.
My father was an alcoholic, and when I was 15 years old, he abandoned our family. I am extraordinarily lucky that my wonderful mother and grandmother raised me in Worthington. The lessons I learned in Worthington have been with me ever since.
My mother and grandmother sacrificed so we could have a great future. After college and law school, I was able to become a prosecutor. I thought of them when I worked to protect seniors from scheming telemarketers, and when I worked with the AARP to pass Minnesota’s “Do Not Call” bill. And I think of them home back in Worthington now, when I see seniors on fixed-incomes facing sky-rocketing property taxes. I think of what that would have meant for both of them.
That piece of Worthington was with me in the legislature when I stood up for our seniors, by working to keep local government aid high so property taxes could stay low. I look forward to continuing those efforts as governor, so we don’t need new schemes or special tax breaks to help our seniors thrive.
Worthington also showed me the value of a quality public education. I was lucky to find teachers and coaches in Worthington who made it their personal mission to help Worthington kids succeed. For the longest time, I thought that one of those teachers was the toughest in the world, as she kept me after class and leaned on me to finish my homework. But I realized as time went on that Mary Beth Blegen, who was very deservedly named National Teacher of the Year years later, was my best friend. Mary Beth taught me what I could accomplish if I worked hard and helped me believe in my dreams. She helped set the stage for the rest of my life.
That piece of Worthington was with me in 2005, when Tim Pawlenty proposed shrinking the state’s share of education funding even further. Teachers like the ones who’d helped me in Worthington were facing layoffs in communities across the state. But Sen. Dean Johnson and I stood up for our kids, and we reached a compromise that included real reforms and a new state commitment to adequately investing in our schools.
I continue to think of those Worthington classrooms now, when I see what’s happening in our schools today. Our kids are stuck taking standardized test after standardized test, under George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind. I think we can do better. I disagree with my DFL opponent, Representative Kelliher, and think we need to scrap NCLB for good, to give our teachers the chance to teach to every child’s potential.
Finally, Worthington showed me what it means for communities to rally around their own. Without help, my family simply never could have afforded to send me to college. But one day, a local banker gave me a call, and asked if I’d stop in for a meeting.
That meeting built a bridge to a future that was otherwise out of reach.
The banker told me that some of the business folks in town had been talking to my teachers. He said they’d heard I had potential, but that I might not be able to afford college. So they’d decided to give me a scholarship, to give a Worthington kid a chance. That banker handed me a check for $1,000, which in those days was enough, along with work-study, loans and other scholarships, to get me in the door. That check changed my life.
That piece of Worthington has been with me every step of the way.
Every opportunity I’ve had, I owe to Worthington and my family. I’ve spent my life working to make good on that investment and to use my opportunities to give back to Minnesota, to create opportunities for the generations ahead. I’ve spent my life trying to live up to that shining example of community that you gave me as a kid.
Now, you can give me a chance to carry Worthington farther still. On Aug. 10, you’ll have an opportunity to take the first step toward electing a governor from southwest Minnesota, for southwest Minnesota, and sending Worthington to the governor’s mansion.
We have lots of challenges ahead. But as we move forward, I’ll never forget where I came from. It’s the best guide I have for the best that Minnesota can be.
Matt Entenza is a DFL candidate for governor.