My mother grew up in St. Paul, and my father was born in Washington, DC. I was born at Andrews Air Force Base, my father having recently returned from war in Vietnam. When I was very young, my family moved across the country to California so that my father could pursue his dream of working with computers. When I was in middle school, he followed his dream even further and created his own company in our garage, but it didn’t work out. When he tried to re-enter the tech workforce he couldn’t find a job, so he worked as a volunteer who taught computer literacy to underprivileged children. Meanwhile, my mother worked as a hotel maid and retail clerk to pay the bills.
When I finished high school, I went to San Francisco State University. I wanted to run track and develop career skills, but I also wanted to grow, find my purpose. I waited tables to pay for college and continued to do so for a few years after graduation. It was a good life, but I felt driven to do something else, to learn more. I also wanted to see more of our country, so I moved to Maine. While I was there I completed a Master’s degree. In the late 1990s I moved to Minneapolis to earn a Ph.D. at the University of Minnesota, and then was hired as a professor of communication at Saint John’s University and the College of St. Benedict, where I’ve taught and researched for 17 years.
I met my wife Laurie while in Maine, and we’ve been together over 20 years. Laurie served as assistant principal at South Junior High, but she’s now Assistant Superintendent for District 742. We have two beautiful and silly children, Eliza (15) and Phineas (13) who go to school at Tech and South.
I’ve volunteered at their schools and coached their soccer teams, but I volunteer in the community and serve on the boards of four local nonprofits too. I also do workshops about critical thinking, citizenship, and community for teachers in public schools throughout Minnesota and in the criminal justice system. In my down time I like to play basketball and soccer, camp and travel with my family, play video games with my kids, and re-watch Star Wars movies. But not the prequels.
I became a teacher because I had been blessed with so many great teachers in my life; I wanted to return the favor. Not all of our children get inspired. Too many get forgotten. Too many of our problems get forgotten, too much of our potential gets wasted, too many opportunities denied. I learned from my father and my teachers that you don’t sit back when things can be better.That’s why I chose to enter politics. I chose central Minnesota. I realized that after moving around so much, I’d finally found a home. Sometimes we just end up where we are, but I chose this life and this community, and I am driven to help it pursue our potential. In teaching and giving back to Central Minnesota, I have found my purpose.