A Love for Minnesota

Growing up in a household where my mother—a tireless worker—juggled multiple jobs and my father—a stonemason—ventured to his daily grind, I eagerly awaited summer vacations. Those precious few days in July or August when my family could embark upon our explorations across Minnesota. It was during these treasured moments that I cultivated an abiding affection for our state, its storied past, and the unbreakable bond we as proud Minnesotans share.

From the depths of our state’s history to the vibrant tapestry that is our people, I’ve found inspiration in every corner of Minnesota—but a home in White Bear Lake. Living in the presence of my parents’ unwavering work ethic, I still marvel at the resilience and dedication that permeated our working-class neighborhood in the western suburbs of the Twin Cities. Venturing further, I encountered the hospitality of the North Shore, the serene beauty of the Lakes and Parks district in Central Minnesota, and the sprawling farmlands and close-knit agricultural communities of the West. And I see how important the values of Minnesota are to our communities, neighborhoods, families, and friends right here at home in 36B: a world where we take care of each other, work together, listen to and accept each other, and celebrate our humble places in this great big world together.

In these diverse communities and among remarkable individuals, I discovered the timeless values that shape Minnesota’s character. Equality, safety, hard work, a thirst for knowledge, and an unbreakable spirit of camaraderie are the pillars of our society. We celebrate the richness of our cultures and embrace the kaleidoscope of people and ideas that flourish within our borders and represent the best of White Bear Lake, Vadnais Heights, Gem Lake, Birchwood Village, and Lower White Bear Township. It is the collective spirit of our citizens that sets Minnesota apart, making us the pinnacle of greatness among the states of our nation. And our local communities represent that best and most of all.

An Enduring Influence of History and Museums

It was in Ms. Dahlgren’s fourth-grade classroom at Edward D. Neill Elementary that I first discovered the transformative power of history and museums. As I stood before my classmates, sharing my aspirations for the future, I declared my desire to become an “old-time farmer.” Inspired by the tales of Almonzo in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s classic children’s novel Farmer Boy, I yearned for a life filled with oxen, prize-winning pumpkins, and a cherished pet pig named Lucy. Little did I know that this seemingly whimsical dream would ignite a lifelong passion for the world of museums and the preservation of our collective past.

Ms. Dahlgren with her wisdom and guidance, gently redirected my ambitions. She explained that while being an old-time farmer might not be within my grasp, I could become a historian and work in museums. From that moment on, my path was set, and I embarked on a journey that would shape the next three decades of my life.

Starting as a dedicated volunteer for the Minnesota Historical Society at the age of thirteen, I immersed myself in the museum world, eagerly absorbing knowledge and honing my skills.

Today, as the Executive Director of the Maplewood Area Historical Society, I continue to serve the community, driven by a deep belief in the power of museums to foster understanding, drive dialogue, and build bridges between diverse voices.

The realm of museums has taught me the importance of reflecting upon our past as a means to forge a brighter future. By embracing a multitude of perspectives and narratives—even those that are challenging—we can listen with empathy and compassion to the needs, desires, fears, and loves of our fellow Minnesotans. Through dynamic programming and educational initiatives, I have led a cultural institution cultivating a sense of community that celebrates our rich diversity.

The recent COVID-19 pandemic provided me with an opportunity to put my museum background to practical use. Recognizing the immense sacrifices made by our first responders and frontline workers, I developed a program to support their children during those challenging times. By assisting elementary school-aged children with their online coursework, I aimed to alleviate the burdens faced by parents and caregivers, allowing them to keep our communities safe and protected.

As I reflect on my journey thus far, I am filled with gratitude for the profound impact that history and museums have had on my life. They have taught me the value of preserving and sharing our collective heritage and using it as a catalyst for positive change. With unwavering dedication, I will continue to build bridges, foster understanding, and create a more inclusive future for all through the incredible world of museums.

A Little Bit like Goldilocks

I grew up in a bedroom community. As a young adult, I lived in Uptown Minneapolis, and though I loved the vibrant community, I longed for my idea of small-town living. I later moved to Wyoming, Minnesota to experience that life. While there, I learned that I needed to be part of a broader, more diverse community. I’ve since found that space in the wonderful community of White Bear Lake where I live with my springerdoodle, Ole. This is a place where we take care of each other, celebrate together, and work alongside one another to build the kind of community that works for all of us.

I am a proud member of the White Bear Lakes Lions Club and volunteer at the Academy for Sciences and Agriculture in Vadnais Heights, as well as with Many Faces of White Bear Lake. I truly believe that I—and all of us who call White Bear Lake, White Bear Township, Vadnais Heights, Birchwood Village, and Gem Lake home—have found the place that like in the tale of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, is “just right.”

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