The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

Entenza returns to Old Main

By Peter Wright

Over 25 years ago, Matt Entenza ’83 was at the helm of Macalester’s student government, then called Community Council. Now he’s looking to steer the state of Minnesota.Entenza is one of ten announced candidates seeking the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party nomination for the 2010 election, a race that has drawn national attention with Governor Tim Pawlenty’s announcement that he will not run for re-election.

Since he graduated from Macalester, Entenza has stayed active in the area. Serving Macalester’s district in the Minnesota House of Representatives and starting a think tank, Minnesota 2020.

Entenza spoke Thursday, Sept. 17 on the fourth floor of Old Main at the semester kick-off meeting for Mac Dems. After the meeting he sat down with The Mac Weekly to talk about life on the gubernatorial campaign trail, his time at Mac and what drives him to seek out jobs in politics and public service.The Mac Weekly: How’s life on the campaign trail?

Matt Entenza: Good. I feel really lucky because, having been a graduate of Mac, everywhere I go I run into Macalester people, and so literally I can go home to Worthington; I’ll be up in northeastern Minnesota; or I’ll be in Moorhead and people will come up to me at parades or community events and they’ll say, “I know you cause I went to Macalester, and we’re part of the same Macalester family.” So, it’s a lot of fun.

TMW: You talked about your connections to Macalester a lot. You live a block away. I guess you still feel that strong connection?

Entenza: Yeah. My wife, Lois is on the board at Macalester and I’m on the board of the High Winds Fund at Mac. I have a lot of my old professors are here at Mac and are still really good advisors. I’ve had so many students who’ve been interns or have wound up becoming staff, working with me throughout my history at both the legislature, Minnesota 2020 and now with the campaign. So you really feel like you’re part of the Macalester spirit.of public service and of giving to others and of creating opportunities for other people.

TMW: Do you feel like the campus or the college has changed at all since you were here.25 years ago?

Entenza: The campus is a lot nicer now than when I was here, and it’s a lot of fun to do things on campus and to play a small part in being part of the campus community. The Leonard Center is beautiful. My wife and I were involved with helping.with the creation of the institute for global studies, and we’re real proud of that because it’s a real part of Mac’s international tradition of public service. I also think the food is a lot better now. I’m sure a lot of Mac students still don’t think the food’s great but it’s a lot better. At least when I eat here now it seems a lot better than when I used to.

TMW: You’re entering an election right now that has nine other people fighting for the DFL nomination. Why did you decide to run now?

Entenza: Well, Minnesota is in terrible trouble. We have a huge deficit. Our public schools are hurting. Our infrastructure is failing. There’s a real lack of vision. And taking the lessons that I learned at Macalester about planning and optimism and a commitment to public service, I thought that this was the time where I could make a difference running for governor. I am very committed and feel that it’s time to get Minnesota to work again.

TMW: You said that running in a field so large might even help your chances, right?

Entenza: Well, it’s a crowded field, but I think I am uniquely positioned. I was leader of the Democrats in the state house. I have run the most successful progressive public policy think tank: Minnesota 2020. I was a TV commentator for the two years. I’m from rural Minnesota but I’ve lived in St. Paul, so I really have the whole state, and I think that makes a difference. I think that will really help me stand out.

TMW: You get this question a lot, but why don’t you tell me what you think are some of the most important issues facing Minnesota right now.

Entenza: We’ve got to get the economy moving again. I think Minnesota could be the Silicon Valley of clean energy. I think that not only creates jobs, but that will make a huge difference for our environment. We need to refocus and make education a top priority again because that gives people the best opportunity for the future. And we need to make sure everyone has access to health care.

TMW: What are some of your ideas for how to deal with [the state economy]?

Entenza: Well, I don’t believe that we can cut ourselves to greatness or tax ourselves to greatness. I think we have to have a strategy to grow the economy and that’s why I’m so focused on clean energy, biotechnology and information technology. We need to focus on modern, 21st century high tech, high pay jobs. So we’re part of the future industries rather than just trying to create tax-free zones for old, tired living industries that are the industries of the past. When you grow things.when you become a Silicon Valley of clean energy, that helps create the tax revenue so that we get out of the constant stream of deficits that we’re in. Then we can start doing things in education and healthcare.

TMW: Just off the top of your head, any good stories from your time at Macalester?

Entenza: When I was president of the student body when I was here, and after being elected president of the student body a guy named Michael Dregni.a photographer for The Weekly, said that he wanted to get a more interesting picture than just me standing somewhere. So he succeeded in convincing me to go up the fire escape on the back of Old Main.and he took a picture of me at the top of Old Main overlooking the campus. I got in some trouble for that.

TMW: In 1982 you were president of the student body. We quoted you as saying, “Life is politics,” and now 27 years later you’re running for a much bigger executive position. What’s kept you going?

Entenza: Just a belief that when people work together you can make positive change. We used to have a lot of debates at Macalester where some people would say, “Oh it’s not important to be involved in politics.” I believed then and I believe now that if you leave politics to people who don’t care about the way the world’s going to look and about positive change, you’ll wind up with a pretty bad state and a pretty bad country. And I just think it’s the Macalester ethic. We Macalester people get involved.

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