Jen grew up in a small town with her older sister and a single mother who raised two daughters while attending graduate school and working full time. Jen’s mother, a retired therapist and educator, is the daughter of Dutch and Polish immigrant farmers. Jen’s late father was a U.S. Air Force Vietnam War veteran who returned home to serve his community as a firefighter. Jen’s parents reunited when she was a young adult, six years before her father lost his battle with cancer. Jen’s parents’ struggles, strength, compassion, and perseverance shaped the woman she is today – hard-working, fair, dedicated, respectful and grounded in her values and the belief that we can all do better when we help one another.
Jen earned a Ph.D in health economics while working for jobs that paid less than a minimum wage, competing for scholarships, and taking out student loans. She rose through her field to become a professor at the University of Minnesota-Duluth. Today she lives in Duluth with her husband and two sons, and knows firsthand the everyday concerns of the people in her district after four successful terms in the state legislature. Jen understands the reality of working full time while still struggling to put food on the table. The injustice and unnecessary burdens put on the shoulders of working-class families is what motivated her to continue her education with a focus on health care and economics. Now, Jen wants to use her experiences and education to improve lives.
Jen is currently serving her fourth term representing District 7A in the MN House and serves as Chair of House Human Services Finance & Policy Committee where she has advanced measures to improve access to affordable healthcare and reduce prescription drug prices. She also serves on Ways & Means, Taxes, Health Finance and Redistricting Committees.
Jen is also a Commissioner on the Great Lakes Commission - where she has advocated for the protection of the Great Lakes, climate resilience, restoration of habitat, and sensible economic development - and serves as Vice Chair of the Council of State Government Great Lakes Legislative Caucus Executive Board.
During her legislative career, Jen was successful in bringing millions of dollars in bonding projects to her district, such as the Essentia hospital and medical district development and securing federal funds to clean up the St. Louis River. She has championed measures to improve the lives of the people in her district and the state of Minnesota, including:
increasing access to affordable health coverage
reducing the cost of prescription drugs
protecting the elderly in long-term care facilities
increasing wages for personal care assistants
investing in home- and community-based services
expanding age-friendly communities
closing corporate tax loopholes
funding historic health and human services bills with bipartisan support
Jen has been asked by many people throughout the Eighth District to represent them in Washington, and their message is clear: the Eighth needs someone who will work for everyone in the district and who will fight for those who have been struggling to make ends meet.
Building on her legislative successes at the State Capitol, Jen will work to make quality education more affordable and accessible, reduce the cost of healthcare and prescription drugs, invest in broadband and other essential infrastructure projects, increase economic development and support jobs in our region, improve affordable housing and food security, and address the impacts of a changing climate.