Ravenna Township man seeks state representative seat in District 58B
A Ravenna Township man earned the DFL nomination last week to oppose Republican incumbent Pat Garofalo in this November's election. Jim Arlt will face Garofalo, of Farmington, for the District 58B seat.
Arlt, who is 54 years old, retired from law enforcement in March and knew he didn't want to pass the time being idle.
"I've always enjoyed working," he said. "I can't just retire and sit at home. This is just another avenue for me to be able to serve the citizens of Minnesota."
For more than 20 years, Arlt has lived in the Hastings area. He worked as a police officer for the City of Northfield, a deputy sheriff and, for the past 21 years, worked with the Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement Division of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety. While there, he was an agent, a special agent and an interim director. In all, he spent 30 years in law enforcement.
His decision to seek public office was born out of a conversation he had with a colleague at the state capitol.
"It was a round-about thing," he said. "I've been a law enforcement officer, and my focus has always been on serving everybody. I got to talking with a representative at the capitol, and we were talking about the possibility of me retiring, and what I'm going to be doing after that. We started talking about the concept of becoming a representative.
"I've never been very political, but I've been very frustrated over the past few years with the lack of the legislature getting things done, and how partisan things are -- there has been two government shutdowns in the past six years. I think we can do better than this."
Arlt is a political independent, saying he is a social conservative and a fiscal moderate.
"I believe in helping people get a hand up, not necessarily a long-term hand-out," he said.
Garofalo has served for eight years now.
"The DFL thinks there need to be change, and they think I can help bring it about," Arlt said.
Arlt said there are a number of similarities between the work he has done in law enforcement and what he could do as a representative.
"Obviously, I can't put handcuffs on people who disagree with me," he joked. "A lot of it is problem solving. You're taking issues and attempting to find solutions. You realize there's a problem, so you engage it. You find out what the dynamics are. What drives it? How can we go about addressing it so we can be more successful in combating it?"
In recent years, Arlt has grown increasingly frustrated with what is happening at the state capitol. Those frustrations include how schools have been treated, how the middle class is faring, property taxes, the unemployment rate of returning National Guard members and partisanship.
On the middle class:
"I just don't think the middle class is represented that well," he said. "It seems like the very rich get represented very well, and the poor get their needs addressed. The middle class, to me, is the aspect of what drives this economy in the U.S. If they have money, they drive consumer demand. Once that demand is driven, more jobs are created."
On schools: "We're borrowing from schools, and that doesn't make any sense to me," he said. "We don't address this problem of the deficit. We seem to be kicking the can farther down the road instead of coming together on a bi-partisan basis and attempting to address the problems that the state has. We need to find a funding mechanism that works so that they don't have to borrow money to make sure they have funds on hand to provide a full school year."
On property taxes: "Most of us have homes where the values have gone down, and the taxes have stayed the same amount, or gone up," he said.
On the 34th Red Bull Infantry Division, based in Rosemount: "Our country has been involved in wars for quite a few years now, and the Red Bulls have played a big part of that," he said. "I'm hearing their unemployment rate is around 20 percent. We need to be sure we keep a sharp eye on that. These are people who have gone over and fought for our country. We need to be sure we're being very aggressive on that."
On partisanship: "I'm not a partisan person," he said. "I don't intend to get into office and vote 100 percent of the time for Democratic bills and 0 percent on the Republican bills," he said. "There are some good ideas on both sides. The problem is, it doesn't seem like they are willing to listen to one another and work together. That's not in the best interests of the citizens of the state. It's something I would be completely against."
District 58B is located immediately south of Hastings. Those living within the city limits are in District 54B, where Republican incumbent Denny McNamara is seeking re-election.
District 58B includes Ravenna Township, Marshan Township, Douglas Township, Hampton, New Trier, Miesville, Vermillion, Farmington and Empire Township, among others.
Arlt has four adult children with his first wife, Carmen, who passed away in 2001. The children grew up in Hastings, where Arlt was actively involved as a volunteer youth football coach, among other things.
His wife Renae, a retired nurse, has two children and together they have six grandchildren.
Arlt is active in the Hastings United Methodist Church, serving on the church council and as chair of their Beyond the Walls Committee.