sychology administrator, DFL officer and mom Mary McEvoy

Erin Ghere

Last weekend, Mary McEvoy loaded her three children into her car as she worked around the state as Minnesota DFL associate chairwoman.
This week, she went to committee meetings and met with graduate students as the University department of educational psychology’s interim director.
On Saturday, her family was in northern Minnesota for a wedding.
It’s a balancing act the soccer mom performs each day in a constant effort to do it all well: mom, administrator and political authority.
“She never stops,” said Karen Louise Boothe, Minnesota DFL communications director. “She has an enormous amount of boundless energy.”
It is that energy which has gotten McEvoy where she is today.
Growing up and attending college in conservative Knoxville, Tenn., McEvoy moved to Minnesota in 1990 to take a job at the University.
She quickly became involved with the DFL during Sen. Paul Wellstone’s first campaign. She was amazed at the ease with which she could help — particularly being new to the state, a mom, a teacher and a woman.
In Tennessee, she said, it’s the same rank-and-file volunteers who help during each election.
The openness piqued her interest in the political process and the DFL party, she explained.
McEvoy continued low-key involvement in the party, while becoming a well-respected authority on early childhood education at the University.
In 1995, McEvoy found a cause involving both her passions. Federal funding was being offered to educate children up to age three who had disabilities, but Minnesota was one of two states that hadn’t accepted.
McEvoy felt a need to lend her expertise to the cause. She educated legislators about the importance of early childhood education, she said, and the funding was eventually accepted.
Her involvement in politics grew from there. The following year, she took a leave from the University to serve as a Washington, D.C., fellow for Wellstone.
She said her time in the nation’s capitol was “eye-opening” about the ways citizens can affect legislation.
When Wellstone’s seat came up for re-election later that year, she again took time off to travel across the state campaigning with the senator and his wife, Sheila. After his victory, McEvoy continued working on local campaigns, including DFL candidate Mike Freeman’s 1998 bid for governor.
Cracks in the DFL party became obvious that election, as loyalties for a variety of candidates were divided. The party’s tough year, McEvoy said, made solid her decision to run for the DFL leadership position.
For the past two years, she has tried to help create unity and rebuild the party, something she said party officials have succeeded in.
Although this year’s DFL U.S. Senate primary was also a hard fight, McEvoy said rather than reveal party weaknesses, it showed a party with many “caring people who want us to have a strong candidate.” This time DFL challengers didn’t beat up on each other, she explained, it was always the DFL vs. Republican Sen. Rod Grams.
McEvoy has also tried to attract youth to the party, enhance the DFL’s inclusion of women and continue to educate those in public office about early childhood education.
In addition to the DFL work, McEvoy continues to educate University students and faculty. Educational psychology professor Scott McConnell said her expertise is something he has personally benefitted from.
As well as having a highly visible advocate in the political arena, “it’s great to have an expert on public policy of early childhood education in the department,” he explained.
Beginning her second year as interim director, McEvoy said she has developed a huge amount of respect for administrators.
“It takes a lot of time and pulls you away from the things that probably got you into this field in the first place,” she explained, saying she especially misses teaching.
And although she walks a tightrope managing her time, McEvoy keeps her priorities in mind.
Her political involvement is a hobby, she said. The most important thing she does all day is being there when her kids get up in the morning and when they go to bed at night.
She does much of her DFL work on the weekends and in the evenings, still carving out time to attend her three children’ soccer and basketball games. She said the party is very aware that nearly all of its elected officials are volunteering their time and have full-time jobs and families.
Her involvement is made easier by “an incredibly supportive spouse,” she added.
At the end of the day, she simply wants the balancing act to pay off: to keep her department well managed, spend time with her family and get more people involved in the political process.
“I really believe that if someone wants to be politically active, they don’t have to jump into the deep end like I did,” she said. “The easiest thing they can do is vote. Everything has some political implication and every vote matters.”

Erin Ghere welcomes comments at [email protected]