Rep. Tim Walz says he is running again because he believes Washington is in need of leaders who are willing to work across party lines to get things done that better the lives of southern Minnesotans. "I think now more than ever, the public is asking us to not throw the partisan firebombs, to get along and work together. There's a few of us here doing that, and I want to continue it," he said.
Born and raised in Northern Nebraska, Rep. Walz graduated from Nebraska's Butte High School as part of a class of 25 students. At the age of 17, he joined the National Guard, serving our country for the next 24 years. He received his teaching degree from Chadron State College in Nebraska in 1989. Rep. Walz then took the unique opportunity to teach in China, as part of one of the first government sanctioned groups of American educators to teach in Chinese high schools. After his return from China, Rep. Walz accepted a teaching and coaching position in western Nebraska, where he met his wife, Gwen, a native of southern Minnesota.
The couple then moved back to southern Minnesota, where they accepted teaching positions at Mankato West High School. Rep. Walz was both a successful teacher, winning the 2002 Minnesota Ethics in Education, 2003 Mankato Teacher of the Year, and the 2003 Minnesota Teacher of Excellence awards, and a successful coach, whose teams won two state championships in four years. Rep. Walz finally retired from the military in 2006. At the time of his retirement, he was the highest ranking National Guard soldier in southern Minnesota, and upon his election he became the highest ranking enlisted soldier to ever serve in congress.
Rep. Walz said his commitment to service goes back to his childhood. "Obviously growing up in small towns and from my family, the idea that you would serve," he said, noting that his father and uncle were both veterans as well. "So I think both of them taught me that, that sense of being part of a community, living in the community, giving back to the community was something that was just kind of expected of you," he said.
At a time when faith in congress is at an all-time low and polarization is greater than it has been in many years, Rep. Walz notes his strong, close relationships with prominent House Republicans such as Florida Rep. Jeff Miller, Chair of the House Armed Services Committee. Rep. Walz proudly notes that he was asked to be one of a relatively small group of negotiators hashing out differences between the House and Senate versions of the Veterans' bill and the Farm bill - the two most recent major bipartisan bills to be passed by congress.
Rep. Walz says he is particularly proud of his work with state, federal and local leaders of all political persuasions on behalf of our nation's veterans. "We put a new (community based veterans' outpatient clinic) in Albert Lea, we put one in Mankato, we strengthened and put a new facility in Rochester, and then we built what I think will probably turn out to be the finest veteran's cemetery in the nation down in Preston," he said. He also noted his work across party lines in helping to get funding for infrastructure projects such as they expansion of Highway 14, the Winona bridge project, and Lewis and Clark water project, which upon completion will provide reliable, safe drinking water to over 300,000 southwest Minnesota, southeast South Dakota and northwest Iowa residents, addressing the region's problems with water supply, quality, and infrastructure.
Rep. Walz says that his biggest priority, if given another term, would be a highway bill. "(We have) an incredibly powerful economy that's growing in Southern Minnesota one of the best in the country," he said. "I think the desire from the business community, from construction, from citizens, (for reasons) both safety and economic... (is for a) long term, 21st century, visionary highway bill." Rep. Walz said he is also committed to continuing to work on improving the VA and Veterans' Care. Calling the current Veterans bill a good first step, he added, "What's good at the VA needs to be strengthened, what's not needs to be improved."
Rep. Walz argues that his strong relationships with Republicans and willingness to reach across party lines get things done is critical in today's Washington, with divided government almost certain to be the reality in Washington for at least the next two years. "I think that's a unique southern Minnesota trait, and I think that over time I've found out that I possess that skill," he said. "Certainly I do not believe that I have all of the answers, but I do know that when you build coalitions, you get a lot of voices to find answers."