Candidate profile: Ward eyes education, economy, health care system in House runImmersed in the fields of education, restorative justice and business since moving to Woodbury in 1974, JoAnn Ward had been toying for some time with the idea of running for office.
By: Mike Longaecker, Woodbury Bulletin
Immersed in the fields of education, restorative justice and business since moving to Woodbury in 1974, JoAnn Ward had been toying for some time with the idea of running for office.
So when she got a call earlier this year from Rep. Nora Slawik who told her she was retiring and wanted to pass the legislative baton to Ward, it only took Ward a little consultation with her family before she said yes.
“It seemed to them as it did to me as the logical next step,” Ward, a Democrat, said.
For years, she had been working to reach more children through different positions she has held in the community.
“This, then, goes a step further,” Ward said. “It’s a continuity issue.”
Ward is running against Pam Cunningham in House District 53A, a conglomeration of communities including northeastern Woodbury, Landfall, and parts of Maplewood and Oakdale. Slawik, a seven-term Maplewood Democrat who was poised to run in the redrawn House district, announced in the spring that she would not seek re-election.
Ward’s experience includes leading District 833 referendum efforts, working as a real estate agent, an independent human relations education consultant and serving executive director for the South St. Paul Restorative Justice Council.
“I’ll be walking the walk in terms of fulfilling my potential,” she said.
Ward said that if elected, her focus would be on job creation and the state’s economy, but noted that “education underlies it all.”
Ward, a former vocational education teacher, said that includes reinvigorating several programs at risk for internships and apprenticeships. She said the country’s manufacturing sector has declined not just because of jobs being outsourced.
“We don’t have people with the skills,” she said.
Responsive education shouldn’t wait to catch up to students until they’re in charter or alternative schools, Ward added, saying those programs “are too far downstream.”
Ward also opposes the so-called “shift” by the Legislature that has delayed payments to school districts as a way to budget Minnesota’s budget.
“I want all kids to be all that they can be,” she said. “It’s about reaching potential.”
Ward also named health care as a top priority. She said she would seek to reduce health care costs by seeking efficiencies in the system. Ward said that means things like educating patients, reducing the practice of “doctor shopping” and encouraging more communication between health care professionals and patients.