MARSHALL - Laurie Driessen wants to bring a new perspective to the Capitol.
Driessen of Canby announced Monday that she will represent the Democratic Party and seek the District 16A House of Representatives seat currently held by Republican Chris Swedzinski of Ghent.
Driessen has been an advocate for quality services for individuals with disabilities and the elderly for years and said she will continue to advocate for people with disabilities and the caregivers who work with them.
"I've tossed this around for a few years," she said of her decision to run. "My son Jeremy has disabilities, and I just feel that this group is underrepresented, and someone definitely needs to be there for them and be a voice for them."
Driessen is employed by REM Southwest/Central Services as the quality assurance specialist for a seven-county area.
Driessen's husband is a former dairy farmer and currently farms grain near Canby, so she also has strong ties to agriculture.
"I definitely think we need to do some work in the ag area, especially with our young farmers, trying to find ways they can get started and succeed. And those farmers that have been in the business for a while. Although prices might be high, everything else is high, too. We need to really look at what we can do to make them successful and not always put up roadblocks."
Driessen said rural Minnesota's voice isn't being heard at the Capitol as much as it should be on many issues. Driessen said she can bring a different perspective to the Capitol - whether it's on agriculture, education or any number of areas.
"I've lived in Canby my entire life and I definitely think our (rural) voices aren't being heard," she said. "It doesn't matter which party. The rural population is not heard in this state. We need somebody who will get in there and make sure our needs are met."
Driessen, a school board member at Canby High School since 2010, said there also needs to be more balance in how funds are allocated between rural and urban schools.
"I've seen that we're really struggling with funding for our schools," Driessen said. "The way the funding is set up in Minnesota now, it seems like it's working for our urban schools, not our rural schools. I really want our kids to have more opportunities and be able to experience different things. And the technology, that just takes a huge piece from our budgets. I really wish our state would look at some type of system where our schools could possibly work off the same server in St. Paul, so they wouldn't have to pay for that service also.
Driessen, a graduate of Southwest Minnesota State University, said, if elected, she will prioritize post-secondary education options like those in Marshall, Granite Falls and Canby. She said she understands the relevance SMSU and Minnesota West carries in the area. Driessen is also a past member of the Southwest Minnesota Workforce Center and past president of the Canby Chamber of Commerce.
New to the political game, Driessen said she is looking forward to plenty of one-on-one conversations with southwest Minnesota voters, "answering their questions, hearing their ideas. I am not the type of person who is going to go out there and just talk constantly and not give people a chance to tell me what their opinions are and their ideas. Politicians don't have all the ideas, we have to get those from other people."