Senator set to step down
After more than two decades, Pat Pariseau is making this session her last.
Pariseau, the Farmington resident who has represented the area in the Minnesota Senate since 1989, announced Monday she will retire when her current term ends this year. The decision wraps up -- or at least refocuses -- a political career that reaches back into the 1970s.
Pariseau said she debated for moths whether to seek re-election in November. In the end, though, the potential of running another campaign and spending more time away from loved ones left her cold.
"I feel like sometimes I don't see enough of my kids. I don't see enough of my sisters. I don't see enough of my local friends," Pariseau said Monday.
Pariseau's career in politics started well before she submitted her name for a 1988 special election. She'd served on the Farmington School Board and she spent 15 years volunteering on campaigns around the state. She pounded signs into yards and knocked on doors and the more she worked the more she liked what she was doing.
"It kind of got stuck in my blood," she said. "The campaigns were what tied me to the party."
Well, the campaigns and her husband. Pariseau's career in politics might have looked very different if her husband, Ken, hadn't been so quick to sign her up for things. One year he went to the local caucus and told his wife the next morning over breakfast she'd been chosen as a delegate to the party's convention. When she attended that convention, she was nominated to serve as a party chair. Pariseau declined that year, but when Ken went to the convention the next year without her Pariseau got the job. She asked him the next day why he hadn't looked out for her.
"I said, 'What were you doing?' and he said, 'I was watching the coffee pot,'" Pariseau said.
Still, the arrangement worked out well. Pariseau loved the work. She'd drive around the state to support Republican candidates. She'd bring her children with her as she did her work. She even convinced her mother, a lifelong Democrat, to vote Republican.
"I did it on my own gas tank. I paid for my own lunches," Pariseau said.
Pariseau's involvement in the party increased over the years. She spent six years doing casework for U.S. Senator Rudy Boschwitz. And when she saw an opportunity to run for a vacant Senate seat in 1988, she took it.
She's never regretted the decision. Pariseau won that first election and six more afterward. She spent more than two decades at the capitol and made legislation supporting the outdoorsmen a priority in that time. She authored a bill to allow the sale of lifetime hunting and fishing licenses and was an active supporter of Minnesota's concealed carry laws. She supported mandatory training for trappers and was involved in legislation to dedicate a portion of sales tax revenue to hunting, fishing and habitat preservation.
"Outdoorsmen, hunters and fishermen all owe Senator Pariseau a debt of gratitude for her work on such efforts as Minnesota's constitutional right to hunt and fish, lifetime hunting and fishing licenses, advancements of personal protection laws and firearms safety, Minnesota's first dove hunting season and a vast array of common sense natural resource legislation," said Senate Republican leader David Senjem. "We will miss her greatly."
Pariseau said she will miss the job, too.
"I'll miss the people. Not just the members but the staff," she said. "You learn something new every year. No matter how long you've been here."
Making the decision to retire wasn't easy, but a desire to spend more time with family and friends and a waning interest in running another campaign this year ultimately pushed her to retire. Pariseau said making the decision "lifted a load on me." She's looking forward to spending her last session doing legislative work rather than looking for votes.
Pariseau doesn't have big plans for life after the session ends. She expects to have more "bumming around time," she said.
"Maybe I'll clean the house a little more often. See more of my friends," she said.