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Ward to retire from MN House after 2018 session

Rep. JoAnn Ward

A three-term state representative from Woodbury will not seek re-election in 2018.

Rep. JoAnn Ward, a Democrat, announced Wednesday she plans to retire from the Minnesota Legislature after this year's session.

"It has been a joy for me to represent these caring, compassionate and engaged communities," Ward said in statement. "I have met and worked with so many neighbors who actively seek a positive future for everyone in the East Metro and the state of Minnesota."

Voters in House District 53A, which covers Woodbury and parts of Maplewood, Oakdale and Landfall, first elected Ward in 2012.

Ward said her decision coincides with her husband's retirement.

"We are both past retirement age and ready to start doing some of the things retired people do," Ward said in an interview Wednesday. "Part of that is spending more time with our family. It's really a very personal decision that this is the right time."

During Ward's initial run for House, the longtime Woodbury resident eyed education, the economy and health care as some of her top priorities. Environmental issues, Ward said, have also been a major focus during her time in the House.

Legislative committees Ward served on include Environment and Natural Resources, Health and Human Services, Veterans Affairs and Education Policy.

"With Representative Ward's retirement, the House is losing a strong woman with a powerful voice for her community and the state of Minnesota," said Sen. Susan Kent, a fellow DFL legislator from Woodbury. "Her years of service have been a testimony to her dedication to public service and the legislative process."

Ward said one of her proudest achievements in the House has been "the slow-but-sure return of civility to the Legislature."

"Minnesotans expect and deserve a legislature that is cooperative and respectful, where people of all experiences and points of view work together to build a better Minnesota," she said.

Ward said her work on these issues will continue in other non-legislative capacities following her retirement, such involvement with local organizations and volunteer work with the schools.

She said she will also continue work with the National Institute for Civil Discourse, a non-partisan policy, research and advocacy group.

No candidates have been announced for 53A in the next election, but Ward said she's "very confident" her party will secure the seat.

Voters in this district re-elected Ward in 2016 with 59 percent of the vote against Republican challenger Andy Turonie of Maplewood, who gained 40 percent of the vote.

"My committee, volunteers and I have worked really hard and strengthen presence in district," Ward said. "I think we have a very strong support in the district."