Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Quams say their family comes 1s

Duane Quam grew up on farms in Dodge and Olmsted counties, with two sisters and one brother. His early memories were, as a kindergartner, getting on a Byron school bus at the Dodge County line. His parents had a house on the same farm as his grandparents, but it burned down and he watched that happen from his grandmother’s living room window. His parents later bought a farm in Salem Twp. in Olmsted County.

His father worked at IBM, and Duane would help with the morning chores for their cattle, and then get ready for school. One of his first paying jobs was helping a neighbor shelling corn. The next morning his hands were so swollen from shoveling the corn from the crib that he had to put on a larger pair of gloves from his dad.

He learned growing up on a farm to not do stupid things or he would have to work harder to fix it. Watch where you step to avoid issues and problems, and then think of the best ways to do it. There is always more work that needs to be done! Duane participated in cross country, track, and choir at Byron. When he was 17, he attended both the Republican and Democratic caucuses and selected the Republican one as it fit his values better. He was selected to be a delegate, and was the youngest delegate at the state convention. He was eligible as he would turn 18 by the general election in the fall.

After high school he attended RCTC and then the University of Minnesota, but being married with a young child, and working three jobs, it was not affordable for him. While he was working in the cities, he heard about a job with the same company in Dallas, Texas, that would increase his pay by 25% and he also would not have to pay state income taxes, so they moved there.

He enrolled at the University of Texas at Dallas, and earned his bachelor’s degree in physics. There was a professor in the Physics department who had received the Nobel Prize which was also an incentive for him in this program. He then enrolled in the doctorate program for physics, but he had one young son and his wife was having difficulties with the pregnancy of their second child. Duane was working over 70 hours/week besides taking classes and it was too much for a young family.

He decided to get his master’s degree in physics and then look for a new job. He received an offer from Motorola in Phoenix, so the family moved there for the next two years after living in Dallas for seven years. In 1997 the family moved to Byron, and Duane had a job with IBM for the next five years, and their boys could attend the Byron schools. When that part of the company was sold, he worked for the new company for six years and then came back to IBM for another two years. When that job ended he went to Cannon Falls for a couple of years.

Duane and Patricia Cocke were both students at Byron, and they first met at the Rochester Roller Rink and were married in 1984. Duane was also a member of the Byron School board and the ZED board for four years. Mike Duffy was the Kasson-Mantorville physics instructor, and they would combine classes with Byron when Patricia was in school. Later Mike became the Byron high school principal when their sons were in high school. Duane was on the state committee to rewrite the Minnesota Academic Science Standards in 2008.

In 2010 there was an open representative seat in his district, and Duane was helping to try to find a strong candidate for the job. He filed for the position 10 days before the endorsing convention. He has been through seven election term processes for the two-year representative role, and his area has changed 3 times because of redistricting. For five elections, Dodge County had five different representatives of which he was one. He now represents all of Dodge County and part of Olmsted County in District 24A. Each of the 67 Minnesota districts has one senator and two representatives for a total of 201 in our legislative branches. Each district represents about 85,000 people in Minnesota.

During his first representative term, he submitted what he said was a common sense bill on state spending during the first three weeks of the session. He wanted to change the procedure if they did not spend all the budget funds, they would lose the money, and the state would cut their allocation the next year. He proposed to put the amount saved, and give part of it back to the state and the rest in an account for the next year for the school. The bill passed with only a handful of people voting against it and was signed into law.

The campaign process can be challenging as it takes time and raising money. He does enjoy attending area parades to meet people along the route. At listening meetings he wants to find out what their issues are being brought up, and then talk to the people to try to find a fix for the problems.

The Minnesota legislature meets each year and is limited to 120 legislative days, with the odd number of years starting the first Tuesday after the first Monday in January, and ending the third week in May. During the even years, as in 2024, the session starts at the end of January or early February with both parties agreeing to the starting date, and also ends the third week in May.

Each Minnesota representative receives a salary of $51,750 effective 2023, no matter what district they represent. They also receive a per diem for living and travel expenses when the legislature is in session. If they live over 50 miles from the state capital in St. Paul, they are eligible for mileage expenses one time each week. During the annual session, he and many other representatives will stay at an apartment close to the capitol building. Since representatives do not meet year-round, members may also include teachers, lawyers, or business owners, and Duane has also done some part time engineering consulting contract projects.

He is a member of these committees’ assignments: Property Tax Division, Election Finance and Policy, Health Finance Policy, and Human Service Finance. Since these committees will meet throughout the year, he estimated that he makes over 40 trips to these meetings between legislative sessions. Sometimes committee meetings have been held via zoom since when the pandemic started, but most are held in person.

Each representative has a Legislative Assistant which he shares with another representative. There are also assistants shared for committees which he is assigned.

Duane will do some traveling across Minnesota to meetings and has also been to some other states and Washington DC a few times for legislative information meetings. He doesn’t feel he needs to be in the spotlight at meetings, but wants to hear the issues people bring up and try to find solutions to help solve the problem.

Patricia Quam worked at the post office in Rochester for many years and is now the postmaster in Byron. They have a son that lives in Kasson, and their other son lives in Byron where his two sons attend Byron school.

Duane went on company business trips to Japan for a couple of weeks and also to Europe. They have traveled to quite a few of the U.S. states and were up to the North Shore this summer. Patricia was born in Alaska when her father was working there. She also lived in Saudi Arabia for a couple of years, and went to an international English school which also included some members of the royal family, when her father also worked there. She has taken trips to England with some of her friends a couple of times.

Duane feels family comes first, so they will try to take in family activities including Byron football games which their grandsons participate in. Duane said he is a Viking fan, and received a lot of kidding while living in Texas when the Vikings seasons were not going that well. One of the trips the family really enjoyed was taking the train from Minnesota to Seattle, and then the train along the west coast to San Diego. The Quam’s are also dog owners that are part of their family activities.

Some of the things Duane has been active with is the United Way in Olmsted County. They also attend church in Rochester, and have been involved with teaching Sunday School, and working with youth groups over the years when their sons were involved, and Duane sang in the choir.

He remembers growing up when they had a problem with their farm well, and neighbors came over and helped get the well fixed so they could have water again. Also, when a farmer got hurt and neighbors got the crop harvested quickly when they couldn’t do it themselves. Duane likes living in this area as people are willing to help others, the crime rate is low, and residents see people as people even though they do not always agree with each other on issues.


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