Flanagan visits Marshall in listening tour

Photo by Deb Gau Minnesota Lieutenant Governor-elect Peggy Flanagan visited with area residents Thursday afternoon at the Marshall-Lyon County Library. Both Flanagan and Governor-elect Tim Walz are currently on a listening tour of the state.

MARSHALL — Peggy Flanagan said she had an exercise for area residents. As index cards were handed out around the room, Flanagan asked people to take a couple minutes to reflect, talk with their neighbors, and write things down on the cards.

Flanagan, Minnesota’s Lieutenant Governor-elect, said there are a lot of roles and commissions that will need to be filled when she and Governor-elect Tim Walz take office.

“What are the leadership qualities you would like to see in those people?” Flanagan asked.

And that was only some of the feedback Flanagan said she and Walz are looking for on a statewide listening tour this week. During a stop in Marshall on Thursday afternoon, Flanagan heard concerns — and collected index cards — from a group of more than 60 residents and officials from the Marshall area.

Concerns from residents covered a broad spectrum of issues, from renewable energy to problems with the Minnesota Licensing and Registration System (MNLARS) for vehicles. A few residents all spoke up on the need to protect services that help place disabled people in jobs — those services are facing a seven percent cut in state funding, speakers said. They told Flanagan the Minnesota Department of Human Services Commissioner should be a person who understood the needs of people with disabilities.

Other speakers asked for support for child care initiatives.

Flanagan agreed that child care solutions are needed in Minnesota.

“Child care accessibility is the most important issue to me,” she said. She said the incoming administration would support looking at local child care solutions, including child care cooperatives and partnerships with businesses.

Some residents called for change in how Minnesota government and state agencies do business. One commenter said Minnesota should have a policy of single-subject bills at the state Legislature. With so many large omnibus bills, she said, it was both hard to understand what was going on in state government, and hard to take lawmakers to task.

Marshall City Council member David Sturrock said an even bigger thing for the Walz administration to accomplish “Is breaking through the silos of the agencies they are asked to lead.”

Both Sturrock and Pat Thomas commented that state commissioners and agencies weren’t working together, and needed a change of attitude.

“I hear you loud and clear,” Flanagan said. “We have to be able to work across agencies … to do well by folks.”

Besides offering their feedback, Flanagan asked area residents to consider reaching out to people they would like to see in state leadership roles, and encouraging them to apply for positions.

“We want our administration, and our commissioners, to look like Minnesota,” she said. She said she and Walz are looking for candidates who are problem solvers, and who come from all corners of the state.

Applications for several leadership positions at state agencies are available at Walz’s website. Flanagan said transparency is very important as the new administration moves forward.

“Everyone needs to go through the front door,” she said.