I’m a Minnesota gal through and through.
My childhood was spent running through the cornfields and pine trees of Ramsey, canoeing the Rum River, and celebrating festivities in the Halloween Capital of the World. After graduating from Anoka High School (Go, Tornadoes!), I moved to Central Minnesota for college and, ultimately, to raise a family.
My husband, Emil Towner, and I live on a hobby farm. Our children are 24, 21, 20 and 9. One is a college grad, two are mid-way through their degrees, and one is making the most of elementary school. Our other kids (2 goats, a mule, a pony and 2 dogs) keep us busy too. Currently, my husband and I are professors, after I changed careers from serving as managing director of content and editorial for a technology company in January 2018.
Inspired to Work
Although I have fond memories of growing up Minnesotan, I also have distinct childhood memories of growing up on welfare and the stigma that came from ‘grocery shopping’ at the food shelf or being teased for wearing homemade clothes. I was hungry in junior and senior high because my free lunch tickets were a different color than everyone else’s, and I couldn’t bring myself to explain why—so I chose not to eat. As an adult, that is hard to imagine.
I was committed to working hard to make my life better. Babysitting at an early age enabled me to buy a bike. With that bike, I could work more by biking to clean people’s houses. When I was old enough to be hired, I biked to my job at the video store until I could save to buy a car.
I understand what it’s like to struggle in today’s economy. In 2005, I went from being the primary breadwinner in our family to having no job when the company I devoted a decade of my professional life to began a series of lay offs that whittled its employee base from more than 1,000 to a few hundred in eight years.
Drawing on the American entrepreneurial spirit, we started a family-run business and felt the pride (and stress) of creating jobs and balancing cash flows. The business surpassed our expectations the first two years, and then the recession hit and business dried up nearly overnight.
Like so many entrepreneurs across the country and in Central Minnesota, we faced the agonizing decision of closing the business. But we closed the doors with honor by serving our customers ethically until the end and paying business debts over the next five years through Chapter 13 bankruptcy agreements that allowed us to protect our home and family.
We were humbled by depleted savings and non-existent credit, but we tightened our budget, cobbled together a variety of jobs and survived the recession.
Empowering through Education
Through all of life’s challenges, I have been strengthened and re-invented through the power of education that started in my earliest days of school.
If you’re like me, you can still remember the names of teachers who changed your life. For me, those teachers were Mr. Larry Golyer and Ms. Hall of Sandburg Middle School as well as Mr. David Walters and Ms. Liz Lytle at Anoka Senior High, to name a few.
I am grateful to them for going out of their way to expect more from me, to connect me to interests that what would lead me to my career, and to encourage me to challenge the status quo. If it weren’t for them – as well as the resources presented to me for college – I am not sure where I would have ended up.
As an adult, I’m still passionate about education. For nearly 25 years, I have taught a variety of writing courses at Saint Cloud Technical and Community College and Saint Cloud State University as an adjunct faculty member.
I’ve had the opportunity to teach traditional college students, veterans, and immigrants as well as those who’ve lost their jobs, have had to retrain and go on the market again with new skills. I’ve seen those students grow through networking, business communication, interviewing and job application lessons. And I’ve helped students become more engaged citizens through civic writing courses where they discovered how to give voice to issues and engage with non-profit organizations in their communities.
In addition, through my marketing and communications roles at local colleges and universities, I’ve celebrated student and faculty success stories, invaluable partnerships with local business and the various opportunities that higher education offers. I’ve also helped secure funding for student scholarships, much-needed equipment and program development.
Serving Former Co-Workers
Civic engagement isn’t just a course I’ve taught; it’s a principle I’ve lived.
For eight years, I co-chaired a litigation committee that represented 1,000 former employees in a lawsuit against former directors and officers of a “right-sized” company that crumbled. While a handful of key players earned millions in a conversion to a 100% employee-owned company, employees lost the bulk of their retirement accounts and their jobs. Our case never made it to trial, but we put up a good fight, disheartened by how much former directors and officers spent on legal fees than was needed to recoup all former employee retirement accounts.
The litigation committee is one of several organizations I’ve devoted time to over the years. I spent three years as president of Kennedy Community School PTA, three years on the Local Education and Activities Foundation (LEAF), two years on the Chamber of Commerce Workforce Development Committee, four years on the Brian Klinefelter Memorial Foundation and eight years on the Central Minnesota Advertising Federation.
These experiences fuel my commitment to the people of District 13B and the State of Minnesota. I’m dedicated to ensuring access to an exceptional education for everyone, fighting for increased wages and opportunities for skilled work, and fostering healthy communities.
And, I promise to model Civility in Action.
Prepared by the
Heidi Everett for House MN 13B Committee
PO Box 517, Saint Joseph, MN 56374