Senator vows to work together
As one of Minnesota’s newest senators, Gene Dornink is focused on sharing new ideas and fresh energy to the political fray that’s polarized the legislature in recent years.
Dornink has the right ideas as he begins his newest adventure. He says it boils down to serving, listening and solving problems.
My only concern is that the political discord currently sweeping our country doesn’t trample his enthusiasm and ideas. Politics is dividing our country in ways we never envisioned.
Last week, I sat down with Dornink in his Capitol office to get an idea of how he’s adjusting to his legislative career after defeating long-time Sen. Dan Sparks in last fall’s election. Dornink, who is from Dodge County, is one of 10 freshmen senators to take office this year.
“I feel at home here,” Dornink said. “I want to do the best I can while I’m here.”
Dornink’s path to becoming senator has been a long time in coming.
In his early 20s, he thought he would run for political office. But, as what happens with many young people, life took him in other directions.
Fast-forward about 30 years. In 2010, people began encouraging Dornink to run for office. He thought about it some more and finally decided to run in 2016. He lost to Sparks, but decided to make another run at it in 2020.
Dornink devoted “a lot of time and money” to his senate campaign. “I worked hard enough to win,” he said.
He knows he has his challenges ahead.
The senator wants to focus on listening to the people he serves.
“I’m working to represent the whole district,” said Dornink. “That’s hard to do, but if you are honest and listen to their issues. We’re not always going to agree, but if we can find common ground.”
Listening and dealing with people is all about tone, according to Dornink. He said it’s important not to elevate the conversation and keep things on an even keel. “Respect another person and don’t get pulled in when they raise the tone.”
Dornink said he’s learned some of these skills in his own life by raising 12 children. He believes having unity with diversity can be accomplished. “We’re all diverse, but we can be unified,” he stressed.
Something that struck me about Dornink is his values in life. He is focused on strong family values. He hasn’t drunk alcohol for many years because of issues that arose within his family from it.
He and his wife have also been involved with Minnesota Adult & Teen Challenge, a group devoted to restoring hope to people struggling with drug and alcohol addiction. The experience has opened his eyes to the serious problem facing many people. “I didn’t realize how addictive drugs were,” Dornink said, adding mental health and addiction are big issues facing our state.
They have even adopted five teens over the years, four of which have gotten married.
“I’m not going to change the world, but I can change one person,” he said.
And that philosophy will probably hold true in the political arena that Dornink has found himself in.
Let’s all hope the fighting can stop and working together can begin.
Dornink vows to do his part. And that’s a good thing.
Anything less will be at the detriment of all Minnesotans seeking the government to go in hot pursuit of helping them survive this horrible period in our history.