Originally published in Minnesota Lawyer on April 21, 2017. 

Name: Duane Sauke

Title: Representative, District 25B

Education: B.A., music education, Luther College

Serving in the state House of Representatives is a third career for first-term Rep. Duane Sauke, DFL-Rochester, after 17 years as a music teacher and 25 in real estate.

Sauke recalls growing up in a family of sharecrop farmers and the “benevolence,” in the form of scholarships, which enabled him to go to college.

“There is no way that one can use words to describe what the eyes of a sharecrop kid are seeing to be the elected person who sits in a chair with their name in front of them in the middle of the House chamber,” Sauke said.

Describing himself as deliberative, Sauke said he was not in a rush to file a large number of bills.

“I come mostly motivated to be the extension of the 40,000 people that are in my district,” which covers parts of Olmsted County and Rochester, Sauke said. “To be their listener, first; their advocate, second; and their participant in the dialog, third.”

Q. What’s the best way to start a conversation with you?

A. Ask me an interesting question. I’m a fairly Renaissance kind of person. You could ask me about the presence of the Holy Spirit in a group or the significance of the mites that are killing our beehives.

Q. Who was the first presidential candidate you voted for and why?

A. The Democrat after Goldwater [Hubert Humphrey]. I was in my high school part of the Youth for Goldwater. My political stuff is a little more cognitive. I saw Goldwater’s politics as being clean, straightforward and well-defined. I ended up going to college in the late ’60s, I was part of the marches on the streets.

Q. What books are on your bedside table or e-reader?

A. I have a reading disability. It’s related to dyslexia but it’s a different construct. If I’m sitting down to read a novel, I can’t get very far past the first page. How do I survive in this world? I put and always have put very high level in the dialog and discourse. And then I do scanning for content.

I went through college, I’ve had two reasonably successful careers and have this opportunity to be elected.

Q. What’s a favorite activity outside your job?

A. Since retiring I have opened up a doorway of bicycle riding. Rochester has a fairly significant amount of trails. Before I started doing any campaign work for one whole summer of retirement, I was riding every day for between an hour and a half and two hours going as fast as I could.

Q. If someone visits you in your hometown, you always take them to see or do?

A. If they have any interest in seeing what a world-class health institution is like I can do that tour. [The Mayo Clinic] has an extraordinary museum. We’ve got wonderful old historic buildings and we’ve got some extraordinarily exquisite new buildings. If it’s art or music we’ve got those kinds of things in town. Or I might take them for a bike ride if they’re inclined to enjoy that.

Q. What’s one way to end partisan polarization?

A. One could shape intent toward positive impact and away from winning and losing. In my mind government’s work is measured first on how and in what ways it lifts up the people who need the assistance and should otherwise remain less active.

Q. How has an event or person inspired you?

A. I had the opportunity to sing in Nordic choir and play in the Luther band under Westin Noble [the late acclaimed music educator and conductor]. That’s a world-class experience.

Regina Mustafa: She’s Muslim in Rochester, a voice for ecumenical understanding.

Politically, Kennedy all the way to Tim Walz, seeing how much personal energy he puts into his raw belief of doing the right thing for the public. In some ways Arne Carlson shaped a vision that I found interesting, a pragmatism yet a clarity of understanding.