Our View / Endorsement: Tough times call for dramatic change with Zeleznikar
With wages flat, test scores in Minnesota schools way down, and the prices of gas, food, and pretty much everything else way up due to inflation, convincing arguments can be made for leadership changes.
In Minnesota House District 3B, eligible voters in the Nov. 8 election have a chance to make the first change in their legislative leadership in more than four and a half decades. They have the opportunity to elect the well-qualified, energetic, and ready-to-be-effective Republican challenger Natalie Zeleznikar, sending her to St. Paul on their behalf.
Hardly a career politician, Zeleznikar instead is an entrepreneur, nursing home administrator, and assisted-living facility operator and owner for 30 years. The Island Lake-area resident is also an author and breast-cancer survivor.
“We all feel the pain at the gas pump, buying groceries, heating our homes, paying higher rents, lack of child care, skyrocketing home values,” Zeleznikar said at a candidate forum this month in Canal Park, co-sponsored by the News Tribune and Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce. “I can understand why people don’t want to run for politics. It’s a hateful environment. But I want to make a difference. I’ve led, and I can lead for Minnesota. … I want to serve the people.”
Zeleznikar has been serving people since she was 16 and started working as a certified nursing assistant, or CNA. Her 30 years of serving seniors have included facilities operations in Duluth, Two Harbors, Proctor, and elsewhere in northern Minnesota. Her leadership and experiences have left her pro-union, pro-business, pro-mining, pro-voter ID, and pro-police.
They’ve also left her with firsthand knowledge of the critical staffing shortages in health care and that many care facilities in Minnesota are on the brink of closure due to the economy and burdensome government regulations. She has seen the many help-wanted signs and gets the workforce challenges businesses are facing, because she’s faced them, too. A mother, she also knows all about the limited day-care openings right now, including 12- to 18-month waiting lists for infant care. And, like the rest of us, she’s paying more for gas, groceries and everyday necessities and is eager to get to St. Paul to do something about it.
“We’ve been taxed too much. Far too much. Out of your pockets every payday,” she said at the forum when asked about the state’s $9.25 billion budget surplus and the failure of the Legislature this year to decide what to do with it. “We need to have a solid reserve. I’ve taken care of a generation that saved money. We need to save. We’ve got inflation coming, and we have some tough times ahead. We need health care, police, education, and child care, (so we also) need to invest. We have critical cornerstones failing, and they’re publicly funded programs. We need to ask why. We need to make sure we look at our solutions and we find out what we can do … for our children.”
The DFL incumbent in District 3B, of course, is the entrenched Rep. Mary Murphy, a former public schoolteacher first elected in 1976 — when Gerald Ford was president and the Paul McCartney-led band Wings had the No. 1 song (“Silly Love Songs”).
“We are losing 76 years of experience with the retirements of (Rep.) Jen Schultz, (Sen.) Tom Bakk, (Rep.) Mike Sundin, and the loss of Sen. (David) Tomassoni. Do we want to add another 46 years of experience to that?” she asked at the forum. “Let me tell you that experience counts, seniority counts at the Legislature.”
With respect to Rep. Murphy, and with appreciation for her many years of service, during challenging times like these, fresh energy, new ideas, and a candidate who knows the issues from real-world experience count even more. Zeleznikar gives her district the most promise for effective leadership.
“We can do better in Minnesota. We have to do better,” Zeleznikar said at the forum. “People want a better Minnesota, a better future with common sense.”