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Senator? Who, me?

Vergas resident Gretchen Hoffman and her husband Virgil have always lived a private lifestyle. They raised three sons, she owned a business in Fargo, and basically just lived as small-town folk do.

That is until she was elected Minnesota State Senator for District 10. Life is no longer private.

"That's still weird to me," she said.

Coming from the private markets, Hoffman said she was becoming more and more concerned with the strain on Minnesota businesses due to government.

"It's the state of Minnesota I'm most concerned with," she said. "They have started spending us off a cliff."

So, she decided maybe it was time to get involved. Her boys were graduated and in 2007, she was no longer involved with her business, Yarn Renaissance, LLC.

"I've always been politically aware but not active."

In 2008, Hoffman, who is also a registered nurse, became involved with the recount, and "it snowballed into this," she said with a laugh.

She started campaigning, getting her name out about a year and a half ago. She was up against DFL incumbent Dan Skogen, who was elected in 2006. She went door-knocking -- twice -- throughout the district, which includes portions of three counties, and made as many appearances as she could and sent out mailings.

"It was pretty much the last year of my life," she said.

Her husband -- "my best supporter" -- estimates that they put 25,000 miles on their car.

"We worked really hard," she said.

And it was "we," she noted. At the end of the summer, she held a volunteer appreciate party for those who had helped with her campaign. She said she invited over 100 people. It was certainly a group effort.

On election night, Hoffman -- who sits on the board of GPK Products, Inc., a family-owned manufacturer of PVC water and wastewater fittings in Fargo -- said she was "at peace. It was in the hands of the voters."

Her husband was actually the nervous one, which was out of character for him, she added.

"It was an exciting night."

They visited several party headquarters that night, ending in Fergus Falls for pizza to celebrate her win.

Now, as a part of the new Republican majority in the Senate, Hoffman said she is volunteering her time to help get things ready for session to begin.

There are 201 legislators, and "clearly we have strong personalities. It'll be interesting."

In the senate, there are 21 freshmen -- more than the number of senior Republicans in the senate. She said it's been understood in the past that freshmen senators don't speak out as much because they are to learn the ropes first. But with a majority of newbies, that will certainly change this time around. If they don't speak up, she said, "we wouldn't be doing our jobs."

The Senate has reduced the number of committees from 25 to 16, and has rearranged the schedule to be more "family-friendly," starting Mondays at noon and finishing up on Thursdays. Fridays are dedicated to working with constituents in the home districts.

"My husband is used to me working away," she said, so her time away during the session won't be too different than when she commuted to work in Fargo.

Hoffman said she's excited to get started.

"We have a big job ahead of us."

She said the governor recount is mandated by law, and that she'd rather have Republican Tom Emmer at the top, but even if DFLer Mark Dayton prevails, "we still have a job to do."

She said that with as much work as she put into getting elected, she plans to run for re-election again in two years.

Although her life has now taken a more public route, that's not the only thing she'll have to get used to; she's still getting used to people calling her "senator."

Her district includes Otter Tail County, six townships in southeastern Becker County and 15 townships in Wadena County.

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