By Jessica Vance
We recently had a chance to catch up with Kristi Pursell, a newly elected State Representative for District 58A, as she is officially sworn into the new legislative session that convened on January 3rd.
If you live in Minnesota, it is very likely that you know someone or have personally experienced Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center as a student, parent chaperone, teacher, or camper. Wolf Ridge welcomes over 12,000 visitors to our campus each year, and a big part of their learning experience is the interactions with our Naturalists & Educators.
Kristi was a Wolf Ridge Graduate Naturalist in from 2005 – 2007 and shared with us how this experience influenced her decision to run for State Representative.
“Wolf Ridge was a place I felt empowered to make positive change in the world for a brighter future. The culture of “yes” was something unlike I’d ever experienced in my life up to that point and having the opportunity and the responsibility to teach youth and then have them go off and change the world was inspiring and powerful!”
While serving District 58A, Kristi will be very busy as Vice Chair of both the House Agriculture Finance and Policy Committee, and House Climate Caucus. In addition, she will be serving on the Environment and Natural Resources Finance and Policy Committee, the Elections Committee, and Education Finance Committee. This level of commitment and focus carries through to what Kristi plans to accomplish as a newly elected Representative;
“I want to be a champion for rural folks who want to be a solution to our most existential crisis like soil loss, access to clean water, and climate change”.
“Education and housing are a big issue facing our state, as well as making sure women have access to the full slate of healthcare options, and ensuring free and fair elections are all top priorities for my first term serving in the Minnesota House”.
After learning of Kristi’s plans for her first year, she offered this advice for future Wolf Ridge Naturalists, or those thinking about running for office.
“This is not a path I ever thought I’d be on, but you never know where life will lead. If you feel called to this work, please reach out to me and I’d be happy to chat”.
Just for fun, we asked Kristi to take a walk back in time and reminisce with us about her time at Wolf Ridge.
What is your favorite spot on the Wolf Ridge campus? “The overlook you can reach by snowshoe for Lake Superior View Hike- as long as there are surprise Twizzlers! …but if that’s not technically on the campus then the new lake shore spot along Lake Superior”.
What was your favorite class to teach? “Initially I was terrified of teaching Birds, but after doing early morning birding hikes to learn directly from Peter Harris as well as observing Nick Olson, Adam Barnett and others teach it a few times, I gained confidence in my ability and learned to LOVE sharing that enthusiasm with students”.
Any other thoughts for the Wolf Ridge community as you take this next step? “From my time as a Student Naturalist at Wolf Ridge I learned so much more than just about the unique ecosystems of that special place: I made lifelong friends, learned that it can be an asset to be a “generalist” who knows a little about many areas, and that I can lead from any chair. I am forever grateful to Wolf Ridge for the person I am today”!
We are proud of Kristi’s Wolf Ridge roots and the impact that her experience had in leading her on this path to pursue her passion and serve as a champion for her constituents and beyond.