U center director to run for governor

Steve Kelley sees innovation as a policy goal.

Since he joined the University of Minnesota more than two years ago, Steve Kelley has been working to connect science and policy. And after the 2010 election, heâÄôd like to be doing it from the governorâÄôs office. Though the former Minnesota legislator hasnâÄôt officially announced his candidacy, Kelley began fundraising in December for a 2010 gubernatorial bid , and said he is intent on running as a DFLer. Kelley, whose students describe as a smart and sincere communicator, said his work directing the Humphrey InstituteâÄôs Center for Science, Technology and Public Policy has influenced some of the things heâÄôd like to do as governor, such as supporting arts programs to encourage innovation.

Policymaking background

Kelley has lived in Hopkins , Minn., where his father was raised and his grandfather worked at the post office, for the past 26 years. HeâÄôs married and has two adult children, one of whom graduated last year from the UniversityâÄôs Medical School. He represented Hopkins, St. Louis Park and Golden Valley in MinnesotaâÄôs Legislature between 1993 and 2006. First as a representative and then a senator, he worked on a range of issues, including information technology, biotechnology, education and health care.

University tenure

He started at the Humphrey Institute in early 2007 as a senior research fellow, but soon after was asked to direct the Center for Science, Technology and Public Policy, a role that involves teaching, research and outreach. âÄúIâÄôve had a great time,âÄù he said. âÄúI like the teaching, I like the students and the work is really interesting, but I havenâÄôt lost my passion around the issues.âÄù Part of the motivation for his gubernatorial bid comes from his students, he said. Last fall, he asked students in his science and policy making class why they enrolled, and many said they wanted to affect policy on energy, the environment or climate change. âÄúItâÄôs cool to be able to teach them ways to do that, but they need somebody in public office who is on board with the game plan,âÄù Kelley said. Kelly Wilder , a graduate student in science, technology and environmental policy , said as an instructor Kelley brings balance to the program sheâÄôs in because he isnâÄôt an academic. âÄúHe gives us a good idea of what itâÄôs actually like out in the real world,âÄù she said. In the classroom, heâÄôs flexible, she said, giving students readings and ideas to consider, but âÄúletting the discussion go where it may.âÄù She said Kelley is easy to work with and able to get along with people who have different viewpoints. âÄúI donâÄôt know anyone who doesnâÄôt get along with Steve really well,âÄù she said. The research aspect of KelleyâÄôs job involves providing the Legislature with technical expertise. So far, heâÄôs led projects on energy efficiency in public buildings, cable television regulation and most recently, how to govern the revenue from a cap and trade carbon regulatory system. Luke Hollenkamp , a graduate student in the same program as Wilder, has been working on the cap and trade research with Kelley and was one of several students who recently testified at the Capitol about the results of the project. It was interesting, he said, to see Republican legislators who were openly âÄúhostileâÄù to climate change shaking KelleyâÄôs hand and acting jovially towards him. Maybe it was just political pleasantry, Hollenkamp said, but âÄúI think on both sides of the aisle he has a lot of friends still in the Legislature.âÄù But Hollenkamp said he and some of his left-leaning friends wonder whether KelleyâÄôs willingness to see the other side âÄî key to his work at the Humphrey âÄî could become a liability as the campaign progresses. âÄúMaybe heâÄôs too nice of a guy,âÄù Hollenkamp said. âÄúInevitably all campaigns pretty much turn negative and I donâÄôt know if he has the stomach for that.âÄù But University of Minnesota Morris political science associate professor Paula OâÄôLoughlin said itâÄôs unlikely KelleyâÄôs friendly demeanor would turn into a drawback for him. âÄúItâÄôs really about him making a positive impression on the voters.âÄù âÄúYou canâÄôt get elected even to state Senate unless you can stand up for yourself,âÄù she added. âÄúHe may be more skilled in the art of Minnesota nice, but that doesnâÄôt make him too nice to be in office.âÄù Whatever it means for his campaign, the centerâÄôs assistant director Leah Wilkes said KelleyâÄôs ability to collaborate is an asset for the center, which works with legislators, researchers, educators and science organizations. Moreover, she said, he tries to find new ways for the public to access science. Kelley said thatâÄôs an important part of connecting policy and science because ultimately, lawmakers respond to their constituents. Connecting science with other parts of the culture, like art, is one way heâÄôs been trying to do that. For example, Wilkes said, at science conferences heâÄôll bring in artists focusing on the environment. âÄúI believe that art raises the profile of that particular subject,âÄù she said. For Kelley, arts education is essential to encouraging innovation. And since heâÄôs been working at the Humphrey, Kelley has come to see innovation as a policy goal in itself, he said. âÄúHow we as a society encourage higher rates of innovation âĦ I think is really important,âÄù he said. ThatâÄôs something heâÄôd like to work on as governor, he said. âÄúI think the governor gives lip-service to the concept of innovation and then doesnâÄôt follow up on it,âÄù he said. Kelley said he thinks encouraging creativity âÄî in both art and science âÄî is essential. âÄúYou canâÄôt get more innovation by adding rigor to science and math education without also encouraging peoplesâÄô sense of expression in the arts. You do them both at the same time, so thatâÄôs one thing I see missing,âÄù he said. HeâÄôd like to see âÄúinnovation centers,âÄù places where K-12 students can work creatively in arts and science and engineering, all over the state.

A âÄòwide openâÄô field

Kelley, who made an unsuccessful bid for the DFL gubernatorial nomination in 2006, said the 2010 race is different because there is no presumptive frontrunner. âÄúA lot of us see an opportunity to win âĦ this one is much more wide open,âÄù he said. HeâÄôll be vying for the nomination against a large field âÄî at least nine other DFL contenders have registered with the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board . But OâÄôLoughlin said she thinks he has enough state legislative experience across a wide swath of issues to compete. âÄúHeâÄôs not seen as a partisan hack, so I think his biggest issue is that heâÄôs probably not as well-known as others,âÄù she said. But she said the lack of name recognition âÄúis a huge thing, though; huge.âÄù On the other hand, he doesnâÄôt have some of the negative associations as more well-known candidates, OâÄôLoughlin said. Setting him apart from the large candidate field, Kelley said, is his experience working on a broad range of issues and the fact that he has represented districts where a Democratic win isnâÄôt a given. And along with making innovation a policy goal heâÄôs also trying to implement it into his campaign. âÄúWeâÄôre going to try some things that are a little more creative,âÄù he said, including events bringing together arts and policy.