Turning Points: Margaret Anderson Kelliher

Turning Points: Margaret Anderson Kelliher

Former Speaker of the Minnesota House of Representatives; President and CEO, Minnesota High Tech Association

One night, my dad and I were carrying bales of hay over to the cattle on our farm near Mankato. I was 11 or 12 and had started thinking about what I wanted to do with my life. I had thought of becoming a large-animal veterinarian, but I also really liked farming and thought maybe that’s what I was supposed to do. My dad and I were talking, and I remember exactly where we were in the farmyard when I asked him, ‘Am I going to get to farm?’

He shot me a look and said, ‘You’re going to go to college is what you’re doing to do. And you’re not going to be part of the farm.’ In that moment, I realized that I wasn’t going to live on that farm the rest of my life.

I did go on to college, a whole 10 miles up the road to Gustavus Adolphus in St. Peter. After I graduated, I was still holding on to the dream of being a veterinarian. I had dipped my toe in public service and had liked it, but I didn’t have a clear sense of what it could lead to. [During elementary school in Mankato, Kelliher organized an unsuccessful petition drive in opposition to a change in a school bus route. As a teenager, she attended farm rallies at the state capitol, where she learned about farmer-lender mediation.] So I called my family’s veterinarians from Nicollet and asked to go on a ride-along with them.

After spending a morning with the two of them riding around and visiting several farms, we went to a café in Nicollet for lunch. After talking to them about what a veterinarian’s life looked like, one of them looked at me and said, ‘We’ve been talking about this. We love that you want to be a veterinarian, but we actually think you’re good at politics. And even though we don’t agree with you, we think you should go do politics.’

It was a stop-in-your-tracks moment that made me think about what I was good at doing. These people had known me as long as my family had known me. They had seen the abilities I had exhibited in 4-H and in school, and they thought that bringing people together was something I should be doing. That conversation gave me closure on being a large-animal veterinarian. —As told to Phil Bolsta

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