I have lived in Rochester’s Kutzky Park neighborhood for over 46 years, and own and operate Rochester Stained Glass, a small business my late husband Mike Podulke and I started here in 1976. I continue to enjoy making and selling stained glass art from a 1905 building that was originally Root Grocery on West Center Street. It would be difficult to find a church in the Rochester area that I haven’t brightened in some way.
After graduating from the University of Minnesota, I taught full time for several years, as my husband’s employer transferred him to locations in New Hampshire, Italy, and the Netherlands. Later we relocated to Rochester and I was a substitute teacher for the Rochester School District.
For six years I was Director of Volunteers at a Rochester nursing home. For several years I managed group homes for troubled youth until I realized that warehousing kids for a while, then sending them back to the same home environment did not resolve problems. I then retrained to become an In-home Family Therapist, working to resolve issues at the family level, often preventing out- of- home placement, a job I worked at for over 20 years.
The skills I learned in this job: conflict resolution, listening, understanding of family dynamics, and coordinating with law enforcement, probation, social workers, schools and others, give me a better prospective on social justice and help make me a better county commissioner.
As county commissioner, I work to be an advocate for children and early childhood education and to be a voice for people who are disenfranchised. My recent efforts to pass T-21, the ordinance prohibiting sale of tobacco and vaping products to those under 21, was awarded by the Zumbro Valley Medical Society. Mayor Ardell Brede awarded me a Mayor’s Achievement Award and I won a CUDE ( Rochester Community on Urban Design and Environment) award for my work on the 9/11 Memorial Window now installed at the Mayo Civic Center.
In my spare time I am active promoting social change initiatives promoted by my church and others. And I find time to play Washboard with the Nodding Wild Onions, a crossover blues band. The Onions have neither practiced nor played since March, but I remain hopeful musical performances will soon be safe again.
Our daughters were raised in Rochester and graduated from John Marshall High School. The excellent education they received in the Rochester School District prepared them for the University of Minnesota, and both have gone on to earn post-graduate degrees.
Over the years, Mike and I hosted nearly a dozen foreign exchange students.
Many of them were through the Youth-For-Understanding program at RCTC, and they lived with us for a year or more. We later became sponsors for one of the students who, along with her husband and children, are now productive Rochester community members and American citizens.
I am a proud member of our community and strive to maintain Olmsted County's reputation as an exceptional Minnesota county. Especially with the changes brought by DMC and Covid-19, there is a lot of work and many adjustments ahead for all of us. I want to be at the table to help guide these difficult decisions.