Sandra welcomes the 2020 Columbia Heights, Minnesota mayoral candidate, Amáda Márquez Simula. A neighborhood block captain, Lion, Rotarian, and community organizer to name just a few of her endeavors, Amáda has a deep history working to build a more perfect society. In the episode Sandra and Amáda dive into their hopes for state and local policy, their backgrounds in theater, and the life-challenges that have impacted their leadership and vision.
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PODCAST INTERVIEW with Amada Marquez
S: Hi, I'm Sandra Feist and I'm a candidate for the Minnesota House of Representatives in District 41 B, which includes New Brighton, St. Anthony, Columbia Heights and Hilltop. I launched this podcast in order to have conversations with the leaders and members of our communities who I respect and wish to learn from. Through these interviews I hope to enrich my own understanding of the role of a legislator, and also to hear from my friends and neighbors about their goals and priorities for our district and state. I also will share my own perspective and background that I hope to bring to the legislature in 2021. Thanks for listening.
I'm excited to welcome to the podcast Amada Márquez - one candidate for mayor of Columbia Heights. Amada I was born in Madison, Wisconsin, but has lived in Minnesota for many years. She has the bold personality of a leader, which was cultivated through a lifetime of community organizing, performing on stage and managing her own company and other businesses as well. She is currently the Columbia Heights Community Education Program Manager and serves on its advocacy board. Amada was also the president of HeightsNEXT, a sustainable community movement, where she continues to organize and lead annual events for Columbia Heights. In 2017 she was named Columbia Heights humanitarian of the Year for her service to the city. Welcome to the podcast, Amada.
A: Thank you, Sandra Thanks for having me.
S: What are the qualifications that you think make ideal public servants?
A: So the ideal public servant would be someone who cares. Someone who steps up when there's a call and there's a need, they say “yes” and they are there.
Someone who is tenacious and just wants to do the work. You know they're going to look into it, and somebody who says “the buck stops with me.” You know, there's no excuses. I think a public servant should say you know “I'm here to figure out the problems until they're figured out.” There's no “oh that's someone else's area” or “that's just how we do it, so I don't really have an answer for you.” To me that's not really an ideal. Stepping up as most of it, you know. If we all do our part and take turns with being on commissions, being neighborhood block captains, volunteering in our schools or in big communities - if we all took turns doing that, and then sometimes you didn't because you had already taken a turn, the world would be a better place. And I think our government is made to do the same thing. It's made to be representative of the people, not politicians. People should be able to have a job, and still be a part of the government. And that's why we have the sessions set up the way we do – so that people have their regular job during part of the year, and then part of the year they’re working on government and passing laws and things of that nature. So, you have to be ready to step up and do your service.
S: I so agree. I feel like people who are not steeped in politics as their entire career actually bring their own perspective and life experience to the role that's really critical. So I agree, I'm glad that it's structured that way - at least for the role that I'm running for in the legislature. As you were talking I was thinking of an anecdote about you that kind of sums up everything that you were saying. We went for a walk the other day and we came across a battery that was in the gutter. You picked up the battery and you're like “this is bad for the water.” You know you care, you're doing the work and you're paying attention to the details. So yeah, so that that sums you up really well. So, thank you.
A: Thank you. Yes, I do not want those batteries in our, you know, it goes into the Mississippi River, and then it goes to the ocean. And I know we're in Minnesota, we think “oh, we're very insular – we’re away from the ocean, and you know it's not OUR responsibility that there's a plastic island floating out there and that seagulls are eating plastic.” They're also from the Mississippi River. So, if we can stop it from getting there, that's a good thing.
S: So how do you think that your experience in performing arts impacts your leadership style? I was really interested to hear about this, because like you, I also have a background in theater. Before I actually went to Madison where you were born. And when I graduated from undergrad my assumption was that I was going to move to New York and become a Broadway star. It didn’t work out that way, and I moved on to New Orleans and was singing in the French Quarter. But I do feel like, you know, a background in performing arts does have a lot to do with kind of leadership style and how you present to the world. So I was really curious, you know, you also have that background. How do you think that that background affects your leadership style?
A: Well, it definitely influences how you present yourself and what you know you are, and what you're portraying, and judging who your audience is and understanding how you're going to speak to one person versus someone else. A lot of it is getting information that's really going to be helpful. You know, talking to a five year old is different than talking to an 80 year old, and I think it’s the same thing with helping your community and getting people to engage in your community. People have different tactics and everybody's voice is valid. So, asking someone, you know, to be a part of something or to volunteer and then finding the niche that they will fit in. Like if they are a behind the scenes introverted quiet person, there's a role for that. And in the performing arts, you know, a lot of it isn't being onstage - that's like the tip of the pyramid. There's a whole base of research finding out what's going to happen – promotion, getting an audience there, finding the correct venue. A lot of it is like community organizing.
You know, you start with stage curtains.
S: Yeah, yeah. When I was in an undergrad, I had the idea that we should put on a production of Anne Frank at like Jewish Community Center, and they said “OK, direct it” - and I was 18. I was like, okay, so I held auditions and I got people to build sets and I decided what dates it was going to be and advertised it. There's just so much that goes in behind the scenes and so many people that have to come together towards the common goal. So, yeah, that is like an aspect of theater. When I was going to ask you this question that wasn't where my head was going, so, interesting.
A: I’ve done fashion shows where the businesses is fashion, but then I’ve also done like community fashion shows, where you have different businesses that are sponsoring outfits and you're working with businesses and the venue and it is all sort of a fundraising fashion show. And you're working with a designer or, you know, someone is donating flowers, but they need to make sure that their business is being promoted as well. So, you know it's a very similar aspect to working with a community, I think. As well as for events we do in Columbia Heights - we have 100-year anniversary coming up next year for the city. And we're planning some events for that, but it's been it's been stuff that's been a part of what I've worked on pretty much my whole life.
In 3rd grade, I was directing plays. In third grade, I would watch Laverne and Shirley and then on the playground I would direct all of the kids to then act out the episode that happened the night before. So I have always been doing that.
S: Yep, same here. We were putting over our own productions of Les Miserables at our house, so like all of our friends would gather and then I’d cast everyone so that I could be Eponine.
A: Yeah, in 4H we did theater, and then high school as well. And then my dad's a musician.
A: My dad plays bass guitar and guitar and he sings and he was in many bands so my whole childhood was hauling musical equipment and being a roadie on the weekends and lots of firemen picnics, festivals and weddings and big polka festivals. And then we would always usually get up there and sing and they’d be like “all right - and now the kids come up” and my brother and I would go up and sing a song or something, or harmonize with my dad, so it's definitely been all my life, whole life long.
S: Yeah - It's so crazy. Like, me too. So my dad also sings, and he plays piano and he had the same band from 1978, until I think a couple of years ago when they played their last gig. But we would do the same. So he played in the Packer band, they had like a band that would be on Lambeau Field. And so the kids, we would come with equipment and get to sit on the field and watch the game. And I would sing with the band at like random people's weddings on the weekends. So yeah, we have a similar upbringing.
A: Very similar, yeah. Very cool.
S: So, describe the challenges you’ve faced in life, and how those will impact your leadership style. Like how does your life experience affect what type of leader you want to be and that will be, and that you already are?
A: I have moved a lot. I was born in Madison grew up in the country in and around Madison. And then I went to school in Milwaukee. I lived in San Francisco, I lived in Denver, and I moved to the Twin Cities and I've lived a couple places here. But I've experienced being the new person in town, and have experienced how some cities are very welcoming and are aware of new people and how accessible the city can be and you can feel as you move in, like “oh, this is great - you know they’re ready for me, they're ready for a new person.” And I've also seen how some cities don't seem to notice when there's a new person there. And, you know, it starts from the neighbors greeting you. It starts from the realtor. But I think a lot of it comes from the city - the city itself - because I think that's where they set an expectation. And I think the realtor takes their direction from what they think the expectation is for the city. Moving into Edina was different than moving into St. Louis Park, or moving into Columbia Heights.
You probably don't have to even really guess much about which one you think was ready to have you and was all welcoming, and so being the new person in town has given me that perspective of what it's like for people moving to Columbia Heights. And as we know, we’ve had a very high turnover of new people here. As far as I'm concerned, all those people are coming in the same way - kind of like “What is it like here? How do I how do I get garbage? When do they plow? Can I park on the street? Do I have to have a dog license or bicycle license?” So making sure that our city website is easy to manage and to maneuver through for people, and that our staff are encouraged and given the opportunity to really be the face of the city when people call with questions. You know, really empower those people to know that you're the face of the city so whatever we can do to make sure they're there in their best place that it can be will be really beneficial to just the whole culture of the city. I'm a single mom, I mean I'm married now, but I was a single mom through most of my kid's life and have dealt with being a one income family, and I've had the free and reduced lunch, and gone through those times as well as during the recession. And so I have been in different places in my life financially where I was, you know, in a very high end six figure salary and then also on the free reduced lunch side of things. So, I've had the experience of being on both sides of that, and I think that's a perspective just to understand that everyone counts in Columbia Heights, and people can say “It’s a blue collar city” - but nowadays, that's a huge, huge assortment of people. There's not just one person that lives here across the board. So I feel like I've been in a lot of places, similar to other people here.
S: Yeah, I feel like that perspective, like knowing what it’s like to be somebody who needs assistance is important. I know when I lived down in New Orleans, I was down there for five years and I did not make any money while I was down there. I remember one time I had to charge a candy bar. Like, literally, you have to charge a candy bar, which, I probably shouldn’t have been trying to charge a candy bar.
A: You were hungry though, right?
S: Yeah. But um, but it really does like we have a lot of people, especially at the national level who are just so wealthy and have never been any other way. I just think especially about Betsy DeVos. And I just think, you know, how does somebody like that have empathy for people who are really in need, and how do they even understand what that's like. So I do think that's important. So I lived in New Orleans for five years and then I evacuated here after Hurricane Katrina. And I remember very distinctly all of the outpouring of support from strangers, and how much that meant to me, and I'm still in touch with so many of the people at the law school where I evacuated to who on the very first day were offering me a home, offering me like Target gift cards so I could afford clothing. I mean I had family here but just to have, you know, strangers offer that support it meant so much to me and it stayed with me. It'll be 15 years this year, and I feel like that was a profound experience for me wanting to, you know, like they say “pay it forward” - like when you're the beneficiary of that type of support, you're inspired to give that support to someone else in their time of need.
A: Yeah, yeah, I, um, for a long time I was, I did not want to apply for, you know, it's not really called “food stamps.” So basically, my friend said “You've been paying into the system your whole adult life -that's what it's for. It's to help you feed your kids and yourself so that you can get a job” and it was a recession, so there's nothing to be ashamed of. Things happen and like “You’re totally right!” and I was so thankful to have that and it really helped. It helped me see even just sitting downtown, waiting for your appointment, and just being with people who need assistance and realizing that there's not there's not like “those people” - and how great that I was able to be a part of that, and take advantage of what is there for people, and then I could use it to benefit me. You know, initially it was like “this will help us eat.” But now that I've come out on the other side and things and circumstances are different in my life, I hope that I don't have to go back to that ever again. But if it happens, you know it does. But meanwhile I grew in that, and I gained some wisdom in that experience. Like you said, empathy - but also just learning how it works. I mean, it's a lot of work to sign up and get forms and it's intimidating, and it is embarrassing - and so all those things are a part of how hard it is to be when you're in need. Yeah, there's anything that I as myself as an individual, but for sure as a mayor can do to help people know that they're welcome here, regardless of their financial place in the world at that time or their socioeconomic status - basically they're still welcome here. Yeah, and if they're rich, they're welcome. It’s OK.
S: Yeah. We’ll let them in. But, you know the bureaucratic hurdles that people have to go through to get assistance – like, that's a choice that the state makes and the federal government makes. And we can make an opposite choice; we can make it easy for people to get that assistance and make people feel comfortable with the process. So you know at the state level, that's something that I would want to be committed to is finding ways to make it easier for people to access the assistance they need. You know, for example, the $600 that people are getting as part of their unemployment benefits – like, we made that easy. Like, it is possible to make assistance easy like people just get a check in the mail. You know, as part of the COVID assistance. And so we should be looking at ways to make it easy for people to get the help they need so that they can focus their energy on their family and their careers and the things that inspire and uplift them.
A: Exactly. Yeah.
S: Cool! So what are your top priorities? Why don't you give me like the top two priorities for the city of Columbia Heights?
A: Only two?
S: Well, I'm just thinking about time, so you can give me more - I've got a few more questions after that.
A: My top two I would say is smarter spending. I think there are a lot of ways we can be wiser about how the city spends its money. A lot of that is leads to my second top priority which is modernizing public safety, which is, part of it is like public safety in the police way. But that's a tiny bit of public safety. Also meaning like healthier spaces for the public. You know, building up our technology in our city and using that kind of like when you're saying that there's ways to make things easier that, you know, we have the internet, it's not new. And, you know, getting our, you know modernizing our website. People can pay things online they can apply for permits online things that we can do to make these things easier. Easier accessibility for people.
S: What do you want to see from the Minnesota Legislature to support the Columbia Heights community? What could the state do that would be most important to supporting the city?
A: I would love to see the state increasing school funding and having our special education totally funded. And now with COVID, of course, who knows what's going to happen but we should be at the minimum of what the state has promised to pay the schools for years and has not fulfilled that. I would also like to see us currently having mandatory masks. The evidence of masks and how it protects you and other people, which of course means the entire society is, you know, insurmountable evidence that it works. And if people don't want to face this, it's like a seatbelt. You know, maybe you don't want to wear a seatbelt but everybody's supposed to wear it - it seems like it's the same thing. Whereas, you know, like wear a condom. Wear a mask.
S: Some things are about the collective. Like, we have our individual freedoms and you know as an ACLU person, I care a lot about the Bill of Rights, but everything is relative. And those freedoms are not more important than the collective good, we all need to be pulling together.
A: I know. Someone had said you know like you're swinging your arm around, it's totally fine until your arm hits me in the face. Yeah, so you don't have to wear a mask but as soon as you're around other people and you're in impacting their right for safety, that's different. That's a whole different story. Another thing I'd like to see from the legislature is expanding our transportation possibilities. And enforcing our building codes that already exist. And I think that will just really help protect our housing stock in Columbia Heights. We have a lot of starter homes here. They are being fixed up. A lot of people are selling them or people are moving in, and just making sure that we can enforce…I mean, the city has its own inspector, but to have the state also encourage things. Other states have done this with more mandatory enforcement, I guess. But that would be something that would really help our homeowners here because when people move here we want them to be happy they moved here, and that’s a “Oh, and nobody ever checks the permits, and so I bought a house with an illegal bathroom. And boy am I glad I moved here,” like we want them to say “This was awesome. I have a great house and the housing stock here is very secure and sturdy. What place to live.” And then the last thing I'd like to see is help for farmers across our state. We don't really have farmers in Columbia Heights, but we all eat food. And I want to make sure that our farmers are being taken care of so that we can have local foods here in the state and coming into the city.
S: Yeah. I'm going to do all those things! Yeah, we're definitely on the same page. It's interesting like some of those things I definitely have given a lot of thought to, all of them some really good but some of them were new thoughts for me around building inspections and compliance with building codes. So, that's interesting - I'm taking notes. As far as our schools I couldn't agree with you more. That's like at the very top of my priorities, and I feel like we need to make sure that we are truly fully funding our schools so that funding is consistent, that it is equitable and that it's generous, and addressing special education unfunded mandates is a top priority. And as we head into the fall semester, as we try to figure out what to do with our schools, I wish it was more shocking to me that the federal government has started to say that it's going to withhold federal funding, rather than pouring money into our schools and really finding ways to fund innovation and fund a safe environment for our teachers and professionals and for our kids. My kids are at Bel Air in the Mounds View school district, and you know I have a lot of concerns.
A: Yeah, and the federal government I think is only, they only give like 10% to the schools.
S: 10% of…
A: Of the budget goes towards schools.
S: Yeah. The states really need to step up, especially right now with the federal government abdicating its responsibility around education environments. You know, housing - I'm just so grateful to be in the state of Minnesota, and I do hope that in the fall, we're able to take the Senate, and we're able to really pass some ambitious legislation around these issues.
A: Mm hmm. Yes, thank you.
S: We'll do it.
A: Do that, that'd be great!
S: Now I have a very important question. Yes, an ongoing debate between my husband and I.
A: So, so I grew up in Wisconsin, and he also grew up in Wisconsin but he's lived in Minnesota much longer than me. And I say that the winters are much worse here in Minnesota, and he says that they're exactly the same in Wisconsin and Minnesota. So who's right?
A: You are right, they are worse in Minnesota. Way worse.
S: Right? I read there's a list that said that Minneapolis is like at the top of this list of the cities that have the most right to complain about how cold it is.
A: People here love to complain about the weather. But I think, I think the weather, the mosquitoes are worse here, and winters are worse in Minnesota.
S: Yeah, they are! We just got a flyer. This company wanted to charge us, it was like $75 for four treatments to get rid of our mosquitoes. And we’re like “that’s crazy money!”
A: And up north, not even just mosquitoes but like ALL the bugs. Like deer flies. You know, other flies like that - I guess biting flies AND mosquitoes. They are so much worse in the woods in Minnesota, I feel like, than they were in Wisconsin.
S: The worst bugs that I've ever lived through were down in New Orleans. They were like monsters. I had a lot of trauma over cockroaches. Like I still see them in corners and then I'm like, “Oh, there are no cockroaches here” – for the most part.
A: The ones in your memory?
S: Yeah, I still like out of the corner of my eye they still haunt me.
A: I lived in Mexico when I was a little kid for a little bit and then we went down a lot to visit my dad's family for a couple weeks or, you know, a month in the summer. So we would go for long periods of time. And you know it's a hot culture and country and so they have a lot with that whole thing. There were a lot of cockroaches where my dad’s from. It was very similar in northern Mexico right on the border, so very similar to the New Orleans. Yeah. No, latitude.
S: Yeah. That's worth the bugs, I suppose. Maybe…
S: So as my last question I always like to ask people if they have any book recommendations, if you've read any great books lately or if there's any book that's really influenced you and inspired you that you'd like to share.
A: I'm reading a book right now. I'm showing it to you live right now. It's called “The Nation City. Why Mayors are now Running the World.”
S: Nice! That seems very…
A: It was written by Rahm Emanuel.
S: Oh, I like him. I love his brother, Ezekiel Emanuel - he is interesting. I like Robert too. I like his style.
A: So he was the mayor of Chicago and President Obama's chief of staff. Yeah, so this book has been really good. And I just read Michelle Obama's “Becoming” book, and that was a very exciting book to read because whenever she would talk about Barack, I would always feel like she sounds just like _____. And I feel very much like when Barack is like community organizing and he's like, “Someone has to do this, and we have to be there with the people, so I'm going to be in this church basement.” And he's talking to people and, you know, I'm very much like that. Like, “I need to do these things” and my husband ____ has said, “Don't you ever want to sleep in on a Saturday?” And he likes to do these things too, so I don't mean to say that he doesn't want to help volunteer, but he's more normal about it probably, and I said if we have a street cleanup scheduled I can't like sleep in knowing that there's like 70 people doing a street cleanup. I want to be a part of it. I WANT to. I don't feel responsible; I don't feel like, “Oh they're going to judge me.” I wouldn't feel like myself if I stayed home. I would be staying at home, denying myself what I wanted to do to prove a point that I didn't have to, and that's just not who I am. I'm just the, you know, the words “public servant” are probably good words, although I don't know how much the word “servant” is a good word.
S: Yeah, it’s probably a bit fraught. But it is true. Like, I get up every day at five, and I basically work until I go to bed with occasional interactions with my family.
A: Yeah – same.
S: So it's a crazy grueling schedule, but like you I find a lot of joy in the community and in the service and it fuels me rather than drains me. I volunteered for many years at an immigration clinic in the basement of a church, and I would have to race there and I would get there at the last minute before my shift. And I would be talking with the woman who ran the clinic and she'd be like, “Oh, I'm so sorry you're so busy and you know you're trying to fit this in, too” and I'm like “No - like I come in and drained and exhausted and I leave uplifted” – like, I love how I just feel it makes me feel empowered; it makes me feel good and connected to the world. So, I totally understand you.
A: Yeah, although now with, with COVID and having so many events be canceled and not being around people I have really, really adapted well to becoming a homebody and getting things done by working all day long. Um, you know I'm still in a lot of zoom meetings. I'm now on the Alexandra house board, so that's a newer thing that's happened - and so that's been zoom meetings. I haven't met anyone in person yet. But there's definitely like a bit of a slowed down space, and I think I'm not going to go back to how I used to be. Just a bit more intentional about where I spend my time. I’m more careful about it, I think, because there's ways to connect with people, and you don't always have to be there. Like I'm still going to wake up and go clean up the street. For sure. But there's probably some things that I will have to, you know, focus my energies on in a different way, which I think is really exciting. I mean one of the things with COVID has been like, how do we, you know, how do we use this time to become more innovative with what to do? We don't want to go back to normal. We want to get better. You know I want to work, I don't want to stay where I am.
S: Yeah, it's been a really interesting opportunity to reassess. Like for us we've just always been running from kid activity to kid activity. And I always told myself like philosophically I didn't want to be one of those parents who overscheduled my kids, but then I think I was. And so without all of those activities, it's been kind of nice. Like, I feel like I see my children more, and I interact with them more. We've been painting as a family. We have these little miniatures, and we all have our little miniature army. And so we've had family paint time, and it just seems like that's the kind of thing that, you know, for running from soccer practice to baseball practice to Cub Scouts we didn't have that space in our lives as a family. And so it has been really nice, there have been some silver linings.
A: Yeah, so that has been cool. So I'm still a doer - but I think I'll take more breaths. Yeah, not show up as out of breath like you were saying before.
S: Yeah, exactly. The breaths I've been taking have been to do a little bit of leisure reading, but not as highbrow as you. I've been reading a book called “Devolution” by Max Brooks who wrote “World War Z”, and it's about a Sasquatch massacre. So it's about, like, Bigfoot. But it is interesting. It's very realistic. It's about this community of people who live out in the middle of nowhere in Washington State, who have this totally self-sufficient group of houses, but they get cut off due to eruption of Mount Rainier, and then a bunch of sasquatches hunt them. And it's been very interesting - it's like they're all having to come together as a community, and work together, but that I think the foreshadowing is that they're not going to make it. But it's been a good sort of step back from the craziness of my day each day, just finding a little bit of time to read. I like to ask people about their books because I just feel like reading for me is a balm, and it's important.
A: Yes, yes it is. I do love it and this book has been great. I think it’s because I'm spending my time very intentional and it's harder for me to say “just read for fun.” I'm reading “10% Happier” for fun, I guess.
S: Oh, I like their podcast. It’s about meditation, right?
A: Yeah it’s about meditation. Yeah, and a movie called “Minimalism.” And we showed it for – HeightsNEXT showed it at the library. And in the movie, they interview many people that are on the same journey of madness, like minimalism but just slowing down. And they talk to a couple that are minimalist - they talked to the woman who came up with the 33 challenge. You know that one? Where you only have 33 items of clothing including jewelry and shoes. And that’s all you wear for a month. And, how she had a disease, and she was very stressed, and stress made her more sick. And so she came up with this “I'm just gonna wear…this is my favorite skirt and I'm just gonna wear these things” and it ended up being 33 items, and she just was like “I just need to not worry about what I wear at work anymore, and I don't care - I'm sick so it doesn't matter. I don't care if people don't like it” and no one noticed that she wore the same things, you know the same five outfits, and she got the most compliments she ever had in her whole life. And she was like “Maybe this is a thing” and her disease symptoms went down. And so she started a whole Instagram challenge (this is probably like six or seven years ago now), but if you look it up, it's like #33challenge and I just think for a month you just wear the same 33 items. You just mix and match and people take pictures in their office. They’re like “This is day seven and it's like so freeing.”
S: Yeah. I feel like COVID kind of did that for me. Like I've been wearing my yoga pants and my (you can’t see it) my Ewok shirt and my hoodie. If I can wear that every day for the rest of my life, I'd be good. I was talking with Mary Kunesh about how when she goes to the Senate, she has to dress nice, but apparently the House, you don't have to dress quite as fancy, and you also get to eat snacks on the floor. I was like, “I'm getting a good deal here. I don't have to wear a suit, and I get snacks.”
A: There you go. Maybe you can wear your Ewok shirt.
S: Exactly. Well, maybe not – maybe not quite that casual. We’ll see!
S: So is there anything else you'd like to share as we wrap up? It's been so great, talking with you. Thank you for putting up with my half-numb mouth - I feel like it's gone pretty well.
A: You're doing a great job. You're doing a great job with them, you know.
S: Thank you.
A: I'm excited to vote for you. I'm excited to see your energy and your background going into the House, and I'm excited to vote for you and to see how this year of campaigning goes for both of us. It's exciting, and we're both new people, and we both have hair colors…
S: Yeah, we have amazing hair and theater backgrounds. What more could our district want?
A: We're gonna have to start doing some duets. Yeah, I am like totally in.
A: Are you an alto?
S: You know, actually, my sister swears I’m soprano, but I feel like I haven't sung enough so I'm probably more of a mezzo. But I have a pretty big range. So we sang the national anthem for a Twins game in a barbershop quartet style, and for that I sang the soprano part.
A: Wow. The Twins game - that's huge.
S: It was a dream I had actually. Sorry – this is an endcap to our podcast. I had this dream when I found out you could audition to sing the national anthem. So I auditioned solo, but there were too many solo girls who wanted to sing the national anthem so I wasn't special. And so I came up with this idea to have a barbershop quartet. And so my sister is a professional choir singer. She's like a choir nerd. And so there are two other sisters who were in her choir. And so we called ourselves 2SOS for “Two Sets of Sisters” and the two other sisters’ mother was an expert in “Sweet Adeline” barbershop quartet style. She gave us a special arrangement, and we rocked. And so we got selected twice. We sang the last year the Metrodome. And then the first year at Target Field.
A: How fun!
S: Yeah - it was special. It's very interesting. You know 20,000 people at a baseball game is not that many, but I had never sung in front of 20,000 people. And then at Target Field it's like 45,000 people. It's kind of nerve wracking.
A: Yeah, that is, that's a lot of people. My dream is to be on Sesame Street.
S: That would be amazing!
A: And to be on Sesame Street, you have to be invited there. And you can't just be famous, and to say like “I want to be there.” I mean as far as I know, from what I’ve read, you have to be invited there. So like, they only invite like the highest, I mean how I look at it, just the moral echelon of people get invited to be on Sesame Street. I think it would be such an honor. When I was a kid I just dreamt…I thought it was a real place and I was just like “I just wish I could move to Sesame Street.” I just thought it had the most love. There were people of all different skin colors. I was the only brown person in the school, and so when I watched Sesame Street I was like “Oh, it’s people who look like me, and it’s not weird. They’re just people.” And it wasn’t like just one person with darker skin. And people had accents when they spoke, you know they spoke English and they spoke Spanish too, and then there were these Muppets, and it just looked so fun and I just always dreamt of like “someday I want to move to Sesame Street.” And then when I found out it was like kind of New York City-ish I was like “OK, I want to live in a big city someday.” I lived in San Francisco. But, I love living here. This is a great community, and I feel like I’m home in Columbia Heights.
S: Yeah. I feel like that. I just love this district. I love the Northern suburbs; I love Minnesota. And you HAVE to get on Sesame Street. I won’t bore the podcast listeners…all the millions of our listeners…but we must talk Muppets sometime. Because in my household, we are BIG Muppets people. So we will have this conversation another time. But yeah – thank you so much for being on. This was a great conversation. I always enjoy talking with you, and I knew that it would be really fun to have you on the podcast to just share your thoughts and your vision. You are going to be SUCH an amazing mayor, and anything I can do to support you…I wish I lived in Columbia Heights – I’m in New Brighton, so I can’t be a voter. But I do have your sign in my yard, and I wrote underneath your name, I was like “for Columbia Heights” because we thought that people would think you were running against Val Johnson in New Brighton. But your sign is in my yard, so everyone in New Brighton knows that they should vote for you.
A: Very fun. Yes, well, thank you for inviting me. This was a lot of fun and I look forward to listening to it and seeing you your next guests are.
S: Thank you so much.
A: You too – have a good night.
S: You too.