From farm boy to speaker of the Minnesota House

Julia MazzoneNews

ABC Newspapers

On Jan. 6, 2015, Kurt Daudt will begin serving in “the greatest honor” of his life.

Daudt serves as representative for House District 31A – encompassing Bradford, Spencer Brook, Stanford and Athens townships in Isanti County. He will become the highest ranking Republican in the Minnesota Legislature when is officially sworn in as the next speaker of the Minnesota House at the start of the next legislative session.

Daudt was elected by his fellow Republicans following a private caucus meeting Nov. 8 that lasted more than five hours. Daudt has served just two terms in the state House — the fewest years of House experience of any speaker since the 1930s.

Daudt was first elected to the House in November 2010 and re-elected in November 2012 and November 2014. Prior to the state office, Daudt served on the Stanford Township Board and Isanti County Board of Commissioners. He was elected House minority leader at the beginning of his second term in the House.

“It’s the greatest honor of my life to have been elected by my caucus to serve as the next speaker of the Minnesota House of Representatives,” Daudt said. “I’ve never been someone to plan my next step. I’ve always just focused on what I’m doing at the moment. I think all my previous roles, including my time on the Stanford Township Board, the Isanti County Board, as well as my time serving as the House minority leader, has prepared me for what I’m about to do now. I think God has a plan for you and puts you where he needs you to be. … It’s the second most powerful position in the state, and this really hasn’t sunken in yet.

“I’ve had a lot of people come about to me and address me as, ‘Mr. Speaker.’ But I tell them, ‘I’m Kurt.’ I was in the office last week and the phone rang, so I picked it up. The person was really caught off guard that I was answering my own phone. But if I’m sitting by my phone, and it rings, I’ll answer it,” Daudt added.

Daudt, 41, is a 1992 alumnus of Princeton High School. He grew up on a sheep farm near Princeton and now resides on his grandparents’ farm in Crown. He also enjoys spending weekends at his cabin on Spectacle Lake, just west of Cambridge.

Daudt was 25 when he was elected to the Stanford Township Board.

“I’ve always been civically minded and wanted to get involved in things,” Daudt said. “Besides my governmental roles, I also served as president of my church congregation for six years. I also got involved in Project 24, which is focused on building orphan rescue centers in Kenya. I think I’ve had an interesting path so far, but each role gave me a good perspective on how each and every level of government impacts each life.”

As speaker of the House, Daudt realizes he has the power to steer public policy.

“When you do your job, you want to solve problems and want to make positive impacts,” Daudt said.

Daudt said some issues he views of high importance relate to nursing home funding and education.

“We have one of the highest achievement gaps in the country, but yet we have the best teachers and schools in the country,” Daudt said. “Every student deserves a world-class education and every kid needs to have the opportunity to get the best education they can.”

Daudt also said he’ll look at transportation issues and ways to provide more funding for roads and bridges.

“I think there are some real advantages and disadvantages to being relatively new yet in the House,” Daudt said. “Some of the disadvantages is I may not have the institutional knowledge, but this can also be an advantage since I’m not bound by it. I’m a common-sense farm kid from Isanti County, and I work to identify problems and then find a way to fix it.”

Daudt wants to change the way the Legislature does its business.

“We need to have our legislators on committees that they are passionate about so we can take an issue, talk about it and then work together to find solutions,” Daudt said.

Daudt’s willing to work across all party lines to get things accomplished, he said.

“I think I’m someone easy to get along with and will work with anyone on any issue,” Daudt said. “I don’t have an agenda. I want to solve problems, and I know where my value sets came from. We need to work together.”

While Daudt said he’s always considered opportunities to move up to higher ranks in the Legislature, he doesn’t envision a run for governor.

“Right now my answer is ‘no’ if someone asks me if I will run for governor, but maybe I’ll change my mind,” Daudt said. “Right now I’m focused on what I’m doing right now. I’ve seen friends go through that. … Right now I’m focused on what I’ll be doing for the next two to four years, and then I’ll probably go back to working in the private sector. I do love what I’m doing, and I still think back to how the heck did I get here. I’ve met unbelievable, interesting people and made friends for a lifetime. I’ve been exposed to different people, perspectives and ideas.”

When not working, Daudt enjoys being outdoors, fishing, hunting, spending time with friends, family and his two dogs. He also spends time working on Project 24 and mentioned the organization has raised over $1 million to help build six orphanages in Kenya.

“We do have unbelievable good people on both sides of the aisle,” Daudt said. “I’ve never met anyone that will not hear me out, and talk and listen. I’m looking forward to the session starting and rolling up my sleeves and getting things done. I really want to make a difference the next couple of years. I’m sick of the gridlock, and during our outreach over the summer we heard from people that they want good, common-sense, ‘do what’s right’ kind of people in office.”