Herald JournalHerald Journal, Dec. 15, 2003

Local interview with the governor

By Ryan Gueningsman

Gov. Tim Pawlenty was in Hutchinson Tuesday night for a sendoff of the Hutchinson National Guard Unit.

After the event, he took several minutes to share his thoughts with the Herald Journal on the coming year, including the special election for former Rep. Tony Kielkucki's seat in the Minnesota House of Representatives.

Kielkucki resigned his position in order to take the job of deputy secretary of state.

"We're going to miss Super K. He's been a really strong, good voice for this part of Minnesota," Pawlenty said. "We have a good candidate to fill it, and we'll let the electoral process go forward and see what happens."

As the end of the year draws closer, Pawlenty said his three main focuses for 2004 will be education reform and innovation, jobs, and health care reform.

"Those are the big three," he said. "There are a lot of other things going on, too, but those are the big three."

"We've got to get this economy turned around," he said. "We have to start growing jobs. Since 2001, Minnesota lost a lot of jobs, and now, in the last six months, we're starting to add jobs and see a little daylight there."

Pawlenty also noted that he was particularly impressed with the large crowd on hand for the National Guard ceremony.

"What a sendoff for these troops," he said. "There are a lot of folks who aren't family members that showed up to say 'we stand with you,' and I think it's important to send that message. Filling up this building tonight was a strong statement."

The governor said he tries to attend as many sendoffs as he can, but scheduling conflicts make it impossible to get to all of them.

"I think it's really important for all of Minnesota to rally around the men and women who are serving in our armed forces," Pawlenty said. "They are doing this at a big sacrifice, and I think it's important we say 'thank you,' and express our appreciation for them."

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