La Crescent resident Patti Balacek is running for an open position on the board of the Minnesota Rural Education Association.
The organization lobbies on behalf of schools in Greater Minnesota and Balacek will be running to fill the at-large representative position for the South Zone, currently occupied by Rick Frederickson, who is stepping down. The other candidates running for the south zone position against Balacek are Lanesboro Public Schools Superintendent Matt Schultz, and Brown County’s St. James school board Treasurer Luisa Trapero.
Balacek is a former high school teacher, and parent of three children that went through the La Crescent-Hokah School District. She also worked as a registered lobbyist for the electrical industry in Minnesota. La Crescent-Hokah School District Superintendent Kevin Cardille said that Balacek is currently involved with helping the district communicate with area legislators.
“Affecting change for our rural schools can only happen through effective and organized advocacy,” said Balacek in her candidate interest statement. “I want to be part of that change and insure that my own children and all children in smaller schools have the same advantages as all students throughout Minnesota.”
Member school districts vote to elect candidates to the association’s board of directors, which has 21 members of which 16 are elected. The elected representatives serve four different zones in the state, on four-year terms.
Ballots have already been mailed to each member district with open positions for its zone. Voting is conducted by one staff member, one administrator and one board member from each member district. Ballots have until Dec. 31 to be submitted, with the results expected to be known in January.
La Crescent-Hokah only recently became a member district, so it will not be able to cast a vote, said Cardille, but he’s still campaigning on Balacek’s behalf.
Cardille was the one who asked Balacek if she would be interested in running for the MREA opening, because he knew she had a background in lobbying from her former job she held at the Capitol.
“She is knowledgeable and experienced with the tactics and processes of politics and lobbying in Minnesota,” said Cardille of Balacek. “I think having a local representative would be a good thing for La Crescent and Hokah.”
Balacek has been working for the past year with Cardille and the district’s community liaisons Jerry Steffes and Rick Bubbers. The four have been in talks with area legislators throughout the year, and have met several times with state Sen. Jeremy Miller, R-Winona, and state Rep. Greg Davids, R-Preston, to communicate what the district needs, said Cardille.
According to Cardille, the district is mostly looking for help with special education funding, equal funding for rural Minnesota schools and tax breaks for the community.
“Having Patti in an MREA leadership position we hope will give us a little better voice as to what we need.” said Cardille. “Patti’s experience would be an asset for La Crescent-Hokah Schools, as well as the other school districts similar to us.”
The MREA board meets six times in a calendar year, with meetings held in St. Paul during the legislative session and in Greater Minnesota outside of session.