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Learning to play the game


Associate Editor

Governing and politics are serious games, former state Rep. Kris Hasskamp said last week — only they’re games very few people know how to play.

As project manager of the Crosby-Ironton School District-based Youth in Government and Civics Project she said when students learn only the sanitized model of government they become easily disillusioned when they see the reality.

The purpose of the programs the former DFL lawmaker facilitates is to show students and citizens the reality of politics in a nonpartisan setting and possibly spur their interest in public service.

Upcoming programs, which operate with the cooperation of C-I Community Education but are open to all area schools include the Capital Corps on Thursday, Jan. 26, and Mock Legislative Experience/Politico on Feb. 9. Capitol Corps is for 11th- and 12-graders and tentatively includes visits with the statewide office-holders such as the governor and other constitutional officers and legislative leaders. Mock Legislative Experience/Politico is for ninth- and 10th-graders. It involves a bipartisan group of former state and federal elected officials including the Dale Walz, the Republican who unseated Hasskamp years ago. Other politicians include former state senators Carrie Ruud (Republican) and Don Samuelson (Democrat), Hasskamp, former state Rep. Steve Wenzel (who served as a Democrat) and former legislator and U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan, D-Minn., who is currently running for the 8th District congressional seat.

Other programs slated for later in the year are Kids Visit with City Hall, a fifth-grade program; Kids Visit with Township Government, a fourth-grade program; Sixth-graders Visit the Capitol; Courting the County, seventh- and eighth-graders; Cuyuna Range Town Hall; Citizens Civics 101 Workshop, designed for adults; Candidate Expo; Post-election Gathering and Legislative Summit.

While she said she loved her job as a legislator, Hasskamp said she’s never been happier than in her current job.

Hasskamp served six terms in the Legislature, from 1989 to 2000. She worked briefly as a lobbyist where she recalled being paid more by one client than she made during a year as a legislator. Her job as project manager also combines her background in education. She was a substitute teacher for more than 20 years as a physical education and health teacher. She also worked at Central Lakes College where, among other duties, she was an adviser to the Student Senate.

The former state representative said people shouldn’t be nervous or reluctant to contact their legislators with questions or concerns.

“They always came first to me,” Hasskamp said of her constituents. “You should never feel that your bothering someone. In a void, you get special interests.”

Too often, she recalled constituents would get upset at her about a particular issue but never take the time to talk to her about it.

“I want people to ask questions, give input,” she said.

Presidential level sponsors of the Youth in Government and Civics Project are Hallett Charitable Trust, C-I Community Education, CLC Rosenmeier Center, United Way, Magnum Machining and Fernhill Wealth Management. State and Congressional Level sponsors are C-I Education Minnesota, Ruttger’s Resort, Deerwood Fireman’s Relief Association, Minnesota Power, Deerwood Bank, Emily Telephone, Grand Casino, Rep. John Ward, Senators Paul Gazelka and John Carlson, Jean Gustafson, Evelyn and Bill Matthies and Mark Solheim (Larson and King).

For more information on the program, Hasskamp may be reached at 527-0070 or 839-3162.

MIKE O’ROURKE may be reached at 855-5860 or