Longtime Lynnhurst resident enters State Senate race

Longtime Lynnhurst resident, DFLer and education advocate Ellen Trout Van Iwaarden has joined the race to succeed retiring State Sen. Jane Ranum.

Ranum, a DFLer, has served in the State Senate since 1990, representing District 63 that includes the city’s far southwestern corner, Richfield and east Bloomington. In a letter to constituents, Ranum, 58, said she decided to leave politics at the end of the 2006 legislative session to spend more time with family. Her husband, Jim, has been diagnosed with a degenerative brain disease that requires ongoing professional care.

Van Iwaarden, 46, served as precinct chair during Ranum’s first run and has lived in the Lynnhurst neighborhood for 21 years. She served on the Lynnhurst Neighborhood Association board from 1998 to 2000 and chaired Mayor R.T. Rybak’s Ethics Task Force that revised the city’s ethics code law, adopted unanimously by the City Council in 2003.

She has served as senior attorney with the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, law clerk for State Supreme Court Justice Sandra Gardebring and associate attorney with Lindquist & Vennum. She is a graduate of Smith College and the University of Minnesota Law School.

“I’m very excited about trying to continue Jane Ranum’s progressive leadership,” Van Iwaarden said. “I’m a strong leader, and I get things done. I know how to bring people together and find solutions by building the team to get there.”

Education is Van Iwaarden’s top concern.

“It’s the foundation for our kids in having a successful, happy future. We only have a limited amount of time to make a difference. I know that in today’s world, high school isn’t enough. We have to focus on the big picture and build lifetime learners.”

She is a former PTA president and member of the Burroughs Elementary School’s site council, a panel comprised of community members to advise school decisions, and her efforts helped launch additional art and music classes – lacking at what was then a “fundamental magnet” school that exclusively stressed “reading, writing and arithmetic.”

“It had a wonderful faculty but didn’t have the curriculum we [the surrounding community] expected. We took a chance that we could transform it with a huge team of committed people,” she said.

Next year, Van Iwaarden will co-chair Southwest High School’s Quality Education Campaign, a parent-driven fundraising group that raised $170,000 for textbooks last year.

“The focus of the campaign is to improve the quality of textbook materials. If possible, we also try to work in class size, a budget concern for all of us right now.”

Van Iwaarden also will campaign on such issues as public transportation, the environment, public safety, affordable housing and improving health-care coverage statewide.