Lobbyists act as liaisons with U, Capitol

Brady Averill

Admitting a degree of failure during the State Legislature’s last session, the University’s lobbyists said they are more optimistic this year.

Donna Peterson and Marty McDonough are University lobbyists. With the legislative session in full swing, they said they work overtime, acting as liaisons between the University and the State Capitol.

McDonough said he measures success at the Capitol by accomplishing specific things, such as passing the bonding bill.

“All of these things going on (with the bonding bill), and none of them happened,” he said. “I felt horrible. We had failed, but it was nothing we had done that led it.”

The issues caused the breakdown of passing the bill, he said, not the University.

However, McDonough said this session feels a lot better. Two years ago, the state’s budget deficit was so huge, he said, he didn’t know what to do next.

Peterson said every session has its personality and its issues.

Peterson started Monday at approximately 7 a.m. She said she knew it would be a long day – 10 hours minimum.

Peterson, University associate vice president for government relations, had a full day of escorting College of Liberal Arts Dean Steven Rosenstone and University President Bob Bruininks at the Capitol.

She arrived early to organize and get ready for whatever could come her way.

“What you think you’re going to do that day isn’t what ends up happening,” Peterson said.

McDonough, University assistant director for state relations, also had plans Monday. He had meetings with legislators and a House committee meeting. He also watched the bonding bill on the Senate floor.

The bill passed 57-7 later that day.

Mike Dean, University Legislative Network grassroots coordinator, said Peterson and McDonough’s jobs have impacts on the University in big ways.

“You have 201 legislators to meet with and make them happy,” Dean said.

They meet daily with legislators who decide how much funding the University receives, he said.

As Peterson drove Rosenstone to meet newly elected Rep. Mike Charron, R-Woodbury, Rosenstone said, “I know that – the game face.”

The goal of the meeting with Charron was to help a legislator connect a face to the University when the time comes to make tough decisions, like higher education and how much the University will receive in the state budget.

Peterson said she knows what it’s like to be a legislator and understands how a lawmaker thinks. She was a state legislator for 10 years.

“You come with that piece of knowledge of how the system works,” she said.

McDonough also has a state government background. He worked for former Gov. Arne Carlson.

At a House committee meeting Monday in which Bruininks proposed the University’s two-year budget, Peterson and McDonough stood by, ready to field any questions.

Typically, McDonough said, he is constantly on the go, leaving little time for lunch.

“You get a late lunch or none at all,” he said.

McDonough is also a family man. He said it’s hard to plan his day beyond work and he doesn’t always know what time he’ll make it home.

Peterson said she agrees.

“There are things that we are responsible for that we have to be there when something is happening or something is needed,” she said.

There are always challenges, she said, but they’re often exciting.

“(Government relations) is a place where you work where you can feel good about what you’re accomplishing each day,” she said.