Speaking With Michael Garber

Michael Garber is a newcomer to the political arena, but there are probably many in the area that already know where he stands on some issues.

“To differentiate myself from others that are new to this process, I say do a search of my name on the Daily Globe Web site and go back a couple years, and you can see what I’ve written and have stood for some time,” Garber said during a visit to my office last week. “I’m new to running for office, but I’m not new to the principles I represent.”

Garber, a Jackson Republican, hopes to replace the retiring Dist. 22 Sen. Jim Vickerman, DFL-Tracy, in St. Paul next year. He is currently an employee of the Jackson County Highway Department; he grew on a farm north of Alpha and is a graduate of Jackson High School and Hesston Mennonite College.

Garber sees his getting involved in politics as a way of making a difference at this stage of his life.

“I had a meeting on July 3 last year, which by that point, I had pretty much decided I wanted to do it, and things looked different than they do now,” he said. “Now, it’s a matter of that I’ve enjoyed my life, made some good decisions and some wrong decisions … but I got to where I am, and I want my kids to be able to do the same. I want my kids to have the same freedom and opportunities that I had.”

As government has continued to expand, personal freedom has diminished, Garber said.

“It’s pretty obvious government is growing, so yes, personal freedoms are going to be reduced in an equal and proportionate measure to the amount of government growth,” he explained.

“The only way we can reduce government is to scale back and focus on priorities,” Garber continued. “We need to certainly focus on private-sector jobs. Obviously state government has a job to do and needs the personnel to get their responsibilities done, but that’s not the way to expand the economy.”

Garber is also a proponent of introducing additional competition in the education system, including more charter schools and pushing for a voucher system. “Competition makes everything better,” he said.

Noting that “our environment requires stewardship, not radicalism,” Garber said he would work to scale back what he sees as over-regulation in the ag industry.

“That means you need to be careful when you apply pesticides, not quit using them,” he stated. “That means you need steer toward environmentalism, but not at the expense of everything else.”

Garber summed up his candidacy — and his principles — as being an advocate of individual responsibility and smaller government, offering “the opportunity to succeed, not to guarantee.” He also believes he will be able to work across party lines.

“I’m anti-union. I’ve voted twice to get rid of the union at the highway department, and I was delegated to be a union representative at negotiations last fall because I’m the kind of guy that can work with people and negotiate and represent fairly. I think that says how I would do working across party lines.”

As a highway department employee, Garber also said he’d have a different set of priorities than what exist today.

“Two things that are vital to freedom and opportunity are education and infrastructure. … I think bike trails (completed in Jackson County within the last few years) are a wonderful idea, but I think if that amount of asphalt had been out on our roads, I think they’d be in a lot better shape than they are now. … I also think that if light rail was such a great idea, somebody with the money would step forward and do it.”

Garber added at the end of our conversation that he had no intentions of being a politician; I’m going to be who I am.” Given Garber’s opinions on most issues, he may well turn out to be the one representing his party in the District 22 Senate race.