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Ruud reflects on time in state senate

The upcoming legislative session is the first in a decade without the Breezy Point politician

Carrie Ruud 2022.jpg
Sen. Carrie Ruud opted not to seek re-election to the state senate, where she first began serving in 2002.
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BREEZY POINT – As the Minnesota State Legislature prepares for a new session, it will do so without longtime area Sen. Carrie Ruud, who opted not to seek re-election after more than a decade in the State Capitol.

The Breezy Point Republican served in the state senate from 2003 to 2006 before being elected again in 2012. Her political career began in 2000 when she was elected mayor of Breezy Point.

“We have a real estate company, and I went to a Breezy Point City Council meeting representing a client on a very important issue, and I guess I thought I could do a better job,” Ruud said, laughing. “I went back to my company and asked what they thought about me running for mayor, and they were all behind me.”

After serving as mayor for a few years, redistricting in 2002 led to an open senate seat in Ruud’s district, and a number of people encouraged her to go for it. That November, she was elected to the state senate for the first time.

“When I was elected in 2002, I was the farthest north Republican senator in the state,” Ruud said. “It was an interesting dynamic, but that is not the case now.”

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When she first began working in St. Paul, Ruud was one of 13 newcomers to the senate – which she said was beneficial, as many others were on the same learning curve as she was. In all of her years in the senate, she said bipartisanship was one of the most important things she learned.

“In my freshman year in the senate, as a minority member, I passed 21 bills that I was a chief author on, and 30 as a co-author,” she said. “Those were things that needed to happen for our community, and they don’t happen unless you work with others to get it done.”

She was defeated in her bid for re-election in 2006 but found herself running – and winning – again in 2012 and has served in the senate ever since. She said she has made an effort in office to serve every member of her constituency, regardless of which circles they filled on the ballot.

“When you get elected, you depend on the people that voted for you,” Ruud said. “I always felt that after you were elected, you represented all the people whether they voted for you or not. You may not agree with their position, but you need to listen to their voice … and you learn about why they feel how they do.”

As her years in the senate have gone on, however, she said bipartisanship has diminished in state congress, creating a major change in state politics and not for the better.

“I see the new politicians are all about political drama and playing to their base – not getting things done in their local areas,” she said. “It's really important that you connect with your school districts and with your local units of government – not to micromanage them but to listen to what their issues are.”

Recent redistricting led to Ruud sharing a district with fellow Republican Sen. Justin Eichorn, leading in part to her decision to step down at this time. However, it was not her only reason.

“I stood up against my party on issues that I thought were important, and I paid the consequences for that,” she said. “I’m not sorry about that. I sleep very well at night with the decisions I made that I thought were the right ones. So I just decided that maybe I didn’t fit the party anymore.”

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Chief among those issues for Ruud are environmental concerns. As a representative of the Brainerd lakes area, she made an effort to have the state consider conservation issues to preserve the beauty and way of life in the area.

“I think my party has lost its way as far as the environment is concerned,” Ruud said. “The environment is not partisan. The environment is for everybody … I think that will be a struggle going forward also.”

As she prepares for her time away from meetings and legislative sessions, Ruud has reflected on her time in the Capitol with a sense of pride and humility, along with gratitude for the voters who kept her in office.

“Any day that you walk up the stairs of the Capitol, into the chamber, and you don't think it's a magnificent honor to have served there ... I really think I've been honored. My constituents have honored me with an immense privilege, and I will always be honored to have served.”

She also has looked back fondly on a number of bills and pieces of legislation she helped pass, as well as on her time as president of the National Foundation for Women Legislators.

“I represented Minnesota across the nation – which was an incredible experience – and I was proud to do so,” she said. “I think Minnesota has a great reputation across the country and I was glad to be able to do that and bring back legislation to Minnesota without reinventing the wheel.”

Ruud said she is unsure of what comes next for her, and she is still working on “closing this chapter” of her life and career. That said, she plans to keep an eye on a few things locally, particularly the goings-on of the Cuyuna region and other things pertaining to environmental advocacy. For now, however, she is simply reflecting on her time in office and the people she served.

“My learning experience has been really immense,” Ruud said. “I've had great support and wonderful constituents and our local units of government here are incredible. When I packed up my office, all of the wonderful mementos and awards that I have gotten from the people I worked with were really heartwarming.”

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Dan Determan, sports writer/staff writer, may be reached at 218-855-5879 or dan.determan@pineandlakes.com . Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/@PEJ_Dan .

Dan Determan has been a reporter for the Echo Journal since 2014, primarily covering sports at Pequot Lakes and Pine River-Backus
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