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Greg Clausen is ready for a new role

It's a good thing Greg Clausen likes meeting people, because since early November his social calendar has been about as full as it can be.

For Clausen, the former Rosemount High School principal who on Tuesday began his first session as a Minnesota Senator, the past two months have involved a lot of introductions. He's met other new legislators at orientation sessions, state department heads who want to talk about their budget and representatives of groups that want to have their voices heard at the capitol.

The schedule started to get busy about a week after the November election and lately Clausen has been averaging about two meetings a day.

"It's been very interesting, because you're learning a lot of information about different organizations or industries that you're not directly associated with," Clausen said. "I have enjoyed it. I kind of consider myself a lifelong learner."

Clausen, a Democrat, beat Burnsville pastor Pat Hall in November in the race to replace Chris Gerlach, who retired from state politics and has since won a seat on the Dakota County Board of Commissioners. He has spent a lot of time since election day just getting familiar with the issues he will have on his plate this session. All new legislators go through an orientation session, and Clausen went through a five-hour briefing on the state's health and human services department. He will serve this session on the Health and Human Services Committee as well as the Education Policy Committee and the Higher Education and Workforce Committee.

Then, there are the smaller things that go along with starting a new position. Clausen was in the process last week of hiring a legislative assistant, and he met with students interested in serving as interns at the Senate. He ended up some University of Minnesota students who happened to have graduated from RHS, though he didn't know them when they were in high school.

Since retiring from his position at RHS Clausen has worked part time as a federal and state program specialist for Independent School District 196. He will leave that position as the session begins because he doesn't feel like he has the time to dedicate to both.

Clausen has talked with District 196 superintendent Jane Berenz about local education priorities and he sat in last week on a meeting of the district's legislative committee. He has also met with representatives from the Burnsville School District.

There are some big jobs ahead, and Clausen is approaching them with a mix of enthusiasm and trepidation.

"I'm excited, and at the same time a little apprehensive because I know we've got some major issues ahead of us," he said last week. "I'm looking forward to what I see as a challenge and hopefully making good decisions."