State Sen. Mark Johnson & State Rep. Deb Kiel Listen to Concerns at 9 NW MN Town Halls

Many voiced concerns about mental health, childcare facilities and providing more housing

CROOKSTON, Minn. — It’s not uncommon for community members from Northwestern Minnesota to make the drive out to St. Paul just to talk to State Rep. Deb Kiel.

“It is really fun to be able to sit down and talk and then get serious about what needs to change and how we can improve life for Northwestern Minnesota. It also gives me knowledge about what it is that I might not know,” Kiel said.

To find out the other issues Kiel and State Sen. Mark Johnson from East Grand Forks might not know that people want changed in Northwestern Minnesota, the two embarked on a series of town hall meetings throughout the area.

“The point of this is to get outside the St. Paul bubble. So understanding what’re the concerns of Northwest Minnesota,” Johnson said. “You get down to St. Paul and you’re there and you kind of hear the same things over and over again and you lose track of what’s going on in your district.”

They began in Thief River Falls at the end of May and just finished in Crookston. But at each one, mental health continued to be a topic of interest.

“You talk to any superintendents of the schools or you talk to the commissioners, it’s a huge economic drain for our counties, for our school districts their focus is no longer on teaching but how do we control a lot of these mental health issues that you see within the classroom. So they need some support on that,” Johnson said.

Community members also voiced concerns over not enough childcare facilities, the need to create more housing for all the people moving to the Northwest part of the state and getting more positions in the workforce filled.

“Maybe marketing the Northwest region, letting people become more knowledgeable that jobs exist in this area. I think that’s important,” said¬†Craig Hoiseth, Crookston economic development director.¬†

In addition to finding out what issues District One constituents find important, Johnson and Kiel also wanted to update Northwestern Minnesotans about what’s been happening in the 2018 legislative session.

“Our major cities are North Dakota based over in Grand Forks and Fargo. That’s one thing we really hope to do through these town halls is just make sure people are engaged with things that are happening down in St. Paul,” Johnson said.

For anyone who couldn’t make it to the town halls, Johnson and Kiel say they encourage you to reach out to them and let them know what you’d like to see change in the next legislative session.

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