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Heidgerken's focus is helping constituents

Last year wasn't an election year, but Rep. Bud Heidgerken went door-knocking in all two dozen towns in District 13A anyway, so he could hear what was on his constituents' minds.

Last year wasn't an election year, but Rep. Bud Heidgerken went door-knocking in all two dozen towns in District 13A anyway, so he could hear what was on his constituents' minds.

"I enjoy it. I try to represent them all equally," he said.

"My office in the past four years has been open equally to them."

Heidgerken, 53, a Republican, is seeking election to his third term in the Minnesota House of Representatives. For the third time in a row, he'll be facing DFL opponent Bruce Shuck of Sunburg.

Over the past several weeks, Heidgerken has visited every town in the largely rural District 13A, which covers Pope County, southwestern Stearns County and northern Kandiyohi County. He's talked to nursing home administrators about the demands facing long-term care. He's dined on lutefisk at church dinners.

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What Heidgerken believes he can offer voters: a strong legislative track record and a willingness to stand up for his rural district.

He was chief author of a bill that increased the financial equity for school districts with low levels of per-pupil referendum revenue. He shepherded a bill through the 2006 Legislature that increased the reimbursement rates for nursing homes in Stearns, Sherburne and Benton counties.

He helped obtain funding for wastewater treatment systems in Brooten and St. Martin and funding for improvements at Sibley and Glacial Lakes state parks. He also helped obtain funding for several highway projects.

"Bringing things back to the district is important," he said. "I have the ability to deliver."

Although he's still relatively new to the Legislature, he has managed to collect a number of distinctions.

He was honored by the Minnesota League of Small Cities for his work on behalf of small towns. In 2005 he was one of two members of the House singled out for the Minnesota School Boards Association's "Legislator of the Year" award. That same year, he also received the Bell Ringer Award from the Agriculture Education Leadership Council.

"I've done in three years what some people have not done in 30 years," he said.

Heidgerken is a well-known figure among the residents of his district. He taught at BBE for a number of years and used to be the economic development director in Brooten. At one time he was on the Freeport and Brooten city councils. He's the longtime owner of Charlie's Cafรฉ in Freeport. He's a former school board member.

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This diverse background has been an asset, he said. "It's helped me. It gives you a different perspective."

It also has helped shape his understanding of District 13A. He represents a district that is largely rural, dependent on agriculture and small business, populated by a significant percentage of retired and elderly people, and struggling to maintain quality education and public services.

Heidgerken said he is knowledgeable about local needs.

Take education, one of the issues he's passionate about.

"I've fought for the kids out here in rural Minnesota and I'll continue to do that," he said. "I do want to push for more equity funding. We need to allow rural schools to be equally funded with the metro."

He's an advocate for long-term care. He said that if he's reelected, he'll push for improved reimbursement rates for nursing homes in Pope and Kandiyohi counties and work to reduce the regulatory burden on long-term care.

"I think the state's obligation is to take care of those who can't take care of themselves," he said.

What he finds most rewarding about public office: being able to help a constituent.

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"Oh, that's a good feeling," he said.

Four years in the Legislature have helped Heidgerken gain a foothold. He said he wants to solidify this with another term in office.

"It takes awhile before you are able to carry some important legislation," he said. "I've got some unfinished business."

In both the 2002 and 2004 elections, Heidgerken polled favorably throughout the district -- including in Kandiyohi County, where much of his opponent's support lies. A former Democrat, he also picked up a percentage of DFL votes.

"To me that meant a lot," he said. "Win or lose, I always give it my best. Public office is an honor and a privilege. It's something that's not ours. It's something that's the will of the people."

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