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Senate Majority Leader's View: Takeaway from 20 uninterrupted minutes with Trump: he really cares

Congratulations to the city of Duluth for successfully hosting the president of the United States last week. It was a great opportunity to showcase the Northland, its industries, and, most importantly, its people.

Paul GazelkaWhen I was asked to meet the president on the tarmac when Air Force One landed in Duluth, I was honored. I expected a handshake, a picture, and 90 seconds to chat; meeting the POTUS is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. What I didn't expect was to be invited to join him in the presidential motorcade along with Eighth District Congressional candidate Pete Stauber. We had 20 uninterrupted minutes with the president on the way to the next event, a roundtable discussion on mining and jobs.

It was an unbelievable chance for Commissioner Stauber and me to brief the president on the challenges and opportunities facing the economy in Duluth and on the Iron Range. I was pleasantly surprised how attentive President Trump was to the issues that affect Minnesotans' daily lives. He peppered Commissioner Stauber and me with questions about his administration's economic policies, wanting to know whether they were working to create jobs in our state. He asked if people were better off than they were two years ago.

By all accounts, the U.S. economy is stronger than it has been in decades, and we told him Minnesota is no exception. That's one reason his visit to Duluth received so much enthusiasm. A Star Tribune poll taken in January found that 70 percent of northern Minnesota's residents approve of Trump's handling of jobs and the economy. Commissioner Stauber and I told him the federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, combined with tax cuts we implemented at the state level, clearly are working for workers and families in northern Minnesota.

Five or six times during the drive, President Trump looked out the window to take in the crowds swarming the route.

"Look at all the great people," he commented.

It became obvious to us the purpose of his visit was simple: He really cares. It's what endears him to the thousands of Minnesotans who came to the rally, taking time off from work to stake out a spot in line for hours. I heard stories of one group which drove in from Miami and others who camped in line overnight. Their enthusiasm reverberated through the packed arena that night — and is still reverberating across the Northland.

Needless to say, Commissioner Stauber and I were proud to play a small role in representing you, the people of Minnesota. Thank you for the opportunity and your hospitality, Duluth.

Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, is state Senate majority leader. He represents Minnesota Senate District 9 in central Minnesota and is an Iron Range native from Virginia.