State Rep. JoAnn Ward announces retirement

JoAnn Ward

Greta Bjerkness

Andy Turonie

Two candidates for House District 53A seat.


DFL State Rep. JoAnn Ward announced Jan. 17 that she will not be seeking re-election to the Legislature in 2018.

Ward, a Woodbury resident, is currently serving her third consecutive term as representative for residents of House District 53A, which includes Landfall, Oakdale south of Tenth Street, most of the south Maplewood leg and the northeastern section of Woodbury.

Ward, 71, explained that her choice not to seek re-election reflects her desire to spend more time with her growing family and her anticipation that she will need to be more available to her aging mother. 

“My husband [Joseph] is retiring, and it’s time in our lives to be a little more flexible than the legislative work would allow me to be,” she said.

Ward and her husband have three adult children and six grandchildren.

“It’s a bittersweet decision because I don’t think there’s ever a good time to leave the Legislature because there’s always undone work,” Ward said. “There’s so much more that I want to do, but I intend to do some of that [in the 2018 legislative session] and as much as I can as a private citizen.”

Ward has served on the following committees: Environment and Natural Resources, Health and Human Services, Veterans Affairs, Government Operations, Education Policy, Public Safety and State Government Finance.

“My touchstone has been my experience in Restorative Justice, conflict management, and organizational development,” Ward said in a statement. 

“I am most proud of the slow-but-sure return of civility to the Legislature. Changing the legislative culture in these politically divisive times has been my personal mission, and I see the change happening.”

After completing her third and final term in the Legislature, Ward said she intends to continue her work in civil discourse as a volunteer for the National Institute for Civil Discourse. She also said she plans to pursue volunteer work connected to education, which has always been a high priority to her.

“With Rep. Ward’s retirement, the House is losing a strong woman with a powerful voice for her community and the state of Minnesota,” said Sen. Susan Kent, who represents Senate District 53. 

“Her years of service have been a testimony to her dedication to public service and the legislative process.”


The race begins

Ward explained that part of the reason she announced her retirement now is because there is still time for those interested in running for the House District 53A seat to step forward before the caucuses. She added that she is willing to help any resident who is interested in running and will support whoever the DFL party endorses.

In the days following Ward’s announcement, Woodbury resident Greta Bjerkness announced her candidacy for the seat.

Bjerkness, who is seeking the DFL endorsement, works as an attorney and mediator in the district. She also serves on Woodbury’s Parks and Natural Resources Commission and the Minnesota State Bar Association’s Real Property Legislative committee.

“As an attorney and mediator, I have nearly a decade of experience advocating for people, mediating and solving tough disputes,” Bjerkness said in a statement. “I understand the importance of listening to one another and working together, which is vital to success in the Legislature.”

Bjerkness isn’t the only person to throw her hat into the race. Maplewood resident Andy Turonie, who was Ward’s Republican opponent in the 2016 race, has announced his plans to run again.

In 2016, Turonie’s campaign focused primarily on responsible state spending. He lost the election, winning just more than 40 percent of the vote.

“For too long wasteful state spending has been given a pass if it is labeled an ‘investment,’” Turonie said in 2016, adding that the burden of funding true priorities gets passed off to local communities.

The 2018 precinct caucuses will be held on Tuesday, Feb. 6 at 7 p.m. To look up caucus locations set by the major political parties, visit


– Aundrea Kinney can be reached at 651-748-7822 or

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