Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Fairview Township in Cass County, and Sen. Carrie Ruud, R-Breezy Point, received awards from the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities during the coalition's three-day summer conference in Fergus Falls.

Gazelka, a third-term senator, received the Rural Leadership Award, which is given to legislators who helped advance CGMC priorities in several program areas during the preceding legislative session.

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Gazelka has shown a keen interest in CGMC priorities, particularly Local Government Aid and infrastructure needs, a news release said. This session, he helped to develop and pass a tax bill that included a $15 million increase in LGA funding. He was also proactive in urging the Senate to put forth a fair and balanced bonding bill that addresses greater Minnesota needs such as clean water infrastructure, transportation improvements and support for economic development.

"Sen. Gazelka has proven to be a strong, thoughtful leader for Greater Minnesota," said Sara Carlson, mayor of Alexandria and CGMC president. "Despite his busy schedule, he is always accessible and open to meeting with CGMC members and other city leaders. We appreciate his willingness to listen to our concerns and stand up for rural communities."

Ruud, another third-term senator, received the Legislator of Distinction Award, which honors legislators who have played key roles in advancing CGMC's policy during the preceding session.

As chair of the Environment and Natural Resources Policy and the Legacy Finance committees, Ruud is a leading supporter of the CGMC's environmental regulatory reform initiatives. This session she was the chief author of legislation that aimed to make the permitting process more transparent and simpler for cities. She led the bill through multiple hearings to its ultimate passage.

She also played a key role in securing the first new funding in more than a decade for two local parks and trails grant programs that are particularly important to greater Minnesota communities that may not quality for other types of state funding.

"Sen. Ruud combines a passion for the outdoors and protecting the environment with the common sense needed to make sound decisions about regulatory policies and funding," Carlson said. "Thanks to her efforts, cities will see an improved permitting process as well as additional funding options for parks and trails projects."

CGMC is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization representing 90 cities outside of the Twin Cities metropolitan area. The coalition educates legislators about issues important to greater Minnesota.

Ruud also received an Arts All Star Award from Minnesota Citizens for the Arts during a performance of L'Exotique at the Lakes Area Music Festival on Wednesday, Aug. 9. The award was in recognition of Ruud's support of the arts in the 2017 legislative session.

"The Brainerd lakes region is fortunate to be represented by a legislator who understands the importance of the arts to their communities," said Sheila Smith, MCA executive director. "We appreciate Sen. Ruud's support of the arts' importance to the economy in Minnesota's lakes region and are grateful for her leadership in protecting Arts Legacy funds as chair of the committee that oversees the Legacy Amendment."