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Smart to run as DFL candidate in House District 12A


The Democratic Farmer Labor candidate for Minnesota State House in District 12A taught Republican incumbent Jeff Backer in high school. District 12A includes the counties of Big Stone, Douglas, Grant, Stevens, Traverse and Wilkin. It also includes a portion of Pope County that includes the city of Cyrus.

Murray Smart of Beardsley is a retired school counselor who taught social studies for several years in the former paired Beardsley and Browns Valley School. Backer is from Browns Valley.

Smart obtained his master's degree in counseling and spent 21 years in the Breckenridge School District. He still teaches driver's education including at the Chokio-Alberta District. "This is my 39th year," Smart said of driver's education.

Smart was endorsed by the DFL at the district convention on April 19 in Morris. He considered running for a state legislative seat while he was working in the Breckenridge School District but didn't believe he could devote the time to the position.

Now that he is retired from the school, he has more time for a legislative role, Smart said.

He has experience in working with lawmakers at the state and federal level. Smart is the chairman of the Minnesota School Counselors Association and the chairman of the Minnesota ACT Council. Both groups have worked with lawmakers on various issues.

The school counselors association established a student support personnel initiative that was approved by the state Legislature in 2016. The initiative established $12 million in grants to help school district hire new staff in areas of student support such as counselors, nurses, social workers and similar positions, Smart said.

The student support personnel legislation had bipartisan support, Smart said.

The ability to work with other legislators is key for any lawmaker, Smart.

And it's also very important to listen to the public, Smart said.

"That's one advantage I have with my background in education," Smart said. "You have to make sure everybody gets heard."

Often, there is more than two sides to an issue. "There can be a third side and even a fourth side that sometimes gets lost (in discussion)," Smart said.

Smart has been hearing about several priorities for the district and the state.

The state needs to better address funding for education and the teacher shortage, Murray said.

The expansion of broadband service to improve internet service and access in western Minnesota and rural Minnesota in general is important, Smart said.

An example of the need to expand broadband is a woman who spoke at a legislator's town hall meeting in Breckenridge. She had moved back to Breckenridge from Nebraska, Smart said. She told legislators that she had better internet service in the middle of rural Nebraska then she did in the Breckenridge area, Smart said.

"I've heard from a person in the Wheaton area who struggles with internet service," Smart said.

Nursing homes, especially in rural Minnesota, have difficulty recruiting and retaining staff, Smart said. The labor issues and others can jeopardize the future of nursing homes in rural communities, he said.

People who have lived in western Minnesota all their lives will need nursing homes as they age, he said. Communities can't afford to lose the nursing homes and the jobs, Smart said.

The district also needs daycare, Smart said. "We need to make sure there is adequate daycare," Smart said. Lack of daycare has a negative impact on employment, he said. People will move away from areas without available daycare, Smart said.

As a retired public school employee, he's also concerned about the public pension. A bill already approved in the state Senate calls for more stable funding of the pension fund, Smart said. Stable funding is needed, he said. It is also an economic investment by the state because research shows that many retired teachers, for example, stay in Minnesota after retirement.

"We are living in local communities. We are spending money in local communities," Smart said. As for Smart and his wife. "We're not going anywhere," he said.

Ben Schirmers of Sauk Centre was endorsed as the DFL candidate in District 12B. The district includes the counties of Douglas, Pope and Stearns.