The NCSL Women’s Legislative Network is thrilled to announce the second annual winners of the Women in Politics Making a Difference Award.
These female legislators have made an impressive impact in each of their states and local communities through perseverance, collaboration, and most importantly pursuing their dreams.
Senator Karin Housley, Minnesota, Republican
Growing up in Minnesota, Senator Karin Housley never had political aspirations. She recalls, “I had school teachers for parents that didn’t talk about politics. I moved out of Minnesota when I was 18. My husband (Phil) was in the NHL (former star defenseman and current coach of the Buffalo Sabres) and we moved a lot.”
It wasn’t until she returned to her home state of Minnesota in 2001 and started her own real estate business that she started to see things differently. “In my fourth year [of my real estate business] I started to see issues through a small business lens like where taxes went. I was a complete rookie—I didn’t know anything. But, I knew I needed to run.”
Q: In your time as a legislator so far of what are you most proud?
A: Right now, I am most proud of getting the Senate to form a committee on aging especially for it to get its own stand-alone committee and then for me to be chair. It addresses so many issues. I’m proud of being able to navigate those issues and focus on what is important for older adults. We have bad issues of abuse of older adults and the backlog of those cases of over a year.
The overall goal of the committee is how to help our aging population. What kind of services can we provide and how do we pay for them? It is so interesting and we are really making strides. There is not really a state that is far and above the rest of them. I’ve been able to travel to different states to find out what they are doing to aid this population. We don’t want to reinvent the wheel.
Q: If you could have dinner with anyone in the world that inspires you, alive or deceased, who would it be? What would you ask them?
A: God. I have so many questions for God. I have a list. I would only need 15 minutes. I’d be quick.
I’ve always wanted to sit down with Prince. I went to so many of his concerts. I loved him so much and he was genius and I loved watching him perform. It is so great to see someone who has found their gift.
Q. If you were to give advice to any young women across the country graduating from high school, what would it be?
A: I have three daughters myself. What I try to instill in them is: Dream big. Dream really, really big. Work hard. Don’t take no for an answer. The harder challenge, the bigger reward.
It's OK to change your mind. Work hard, make good decisions and to be nice. Everything comes full circle. Being in the legislature, you can get twice as much done being nice as fighting.
Young kids come into see me and they are excited about politics. The best politicians are those that have gone out and done something outside the system. It gives you perspective. I tell them “you got to bring something to the table. Go out and do something in the world and then come give back.”
Sarah Settle is staff coordinator of NCSL's Foundation and Member Outreach.