by Jeff Pollari & Tim Osmondson, SCA Living Magazine Staff
Every month, our magazine takes a spotlight to a member of the community who has outstandingly distinguished themself and Lisa Demuth is no exception to this tradition. That is not to say, however, that Lisa is unexceptional. Indeed, as a mother of 4, MN State Representative member, breast cancer survivor, and all-around community advocate, she is the caliber of person that Central Minnesota and the greater St. Cloud area can feel proud to call her their own.
If you’ve been paying attention, you may think that one of those attributes doesn’t fit with the other. Admittedly, I had my doubts too when I found out I was going to interview a politician, yet Lisa is so much more than a politician, especially because she does not seem to think of herself as one. At the start of our conversation, she was quite determined to be very clear that while she got “61% of the vote, 39% voted otherwise. So, now I have to find out what they want, how we can work and grow together, by representing everyone respectfully for the good of the area.”
Bipartisanship is second-nature to Demuth and her small-town approach to big-state politics. The people she has to serve “are our neighbors, people I recognize, at the grocery store and at church.” While District 13A is too big to know everyone personally, she still tries to keep that spirit in mind with an enormous banner that hangs directly in front of her while she sits in her office signifying each of the 21 cities and townships she represents in Minnesota (see picture above/below).
Even though politics is a sensitive issue, especially today, Lisa is as straightforward and positive as they come. She says “I cannot be one way at the capital and one way at home, that would never work. Overall, I am a positive person. I try to find the good in something because my family and I have experienced tough challenges along the way. If you don’t find the good you’ll be at a loss.”
Nevertheless, Lisa herself was at a loss for words when state representative Jeff Howe called her out of the blue one Memorial Day weekend to ask her if she would consider running for his spot in office from 2019-2020. Apparently, through some remote hockey mom connection and nearly a dozen years on the school board, she had done enough to attract Howe’s attention and the rest is history.
Lisa Demuth, however, never figured herself as a politician. She describes herself as “always a faithful voter, but I did not follow things closely at the State level because of how negative things came across. I was too focused on my community and home,” where she was always busy doing the most good possible. Hence, she shared her decision to run for office with her family and they together made the choice to go for it.
Interestingly, the Demuths’ ability to operate as a team is directly related to the family’s “survivor muscle memory” which they have acquired through battling several serious health problems over the last decade. Just as our story now deviates from the political to the personal, when Lisa found out on December 22, 2009 that the lump in her breast was cancer, her holidays deviated from their expected plans as well.
It was news she had good authority to trust since her treatment came from the Mayo Clinic. If that was not shocking enough, just two days later it was announced on Christmas Eve by her daughter and son in law that they were expecting their first child, and Lisa’s first grandchild. As Lisa received the news with more than a bit of melancholy, wondering whether she would be alive to see the baby as it is welcomed into our world.
Just as new life can stir the greatest of feelings, Lisa’s possibly fatal condition encouraged her to opt for the most aggressive treatment possible, a bilateral mastectomy surgery with no reconstruction. By January 8th, 2010, Lisa Demuth would receive the unforgettable news, they had gotten all of the cancer out. Intriguingly, just 9 years later, she would be sworn into office on the same day, January 8th 2019.
Having gone through what she has, Demuth recognizes that “Every day is an absolute gift.” Now she works on giving that gift back both personally and politically in ways we can all appreciate. Perhaps one of the most impressive examples of Lisa’s commitment came when her own mother would be diagnosed with breast cancer through a 3D mammogram technology that later influenced her to co-author a bill HF 440 during the 2019 session relating to breast cancer screening coverage. Because her mother had a very flat surface type of breast cancer, that did not lump in the traditional manner, a 3D scanner was absolutely essential for catching the formed cancer before it was too late. Now, her mother is cancer-free as well with quite the story to tell about how and why. Thus, this language was included in the HHS omnibus Finance Bill, HF 2414 and requires insurance coverage for preventative mammogram screening, including 3D mammograms for those at risk.
The Demuth family’s ability to take care of one another was again exemplified when her son was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis, a condition that required extensive familial support, 70 in-patient hospital days at the Mayo, and 4 incredible surgeries. While she wished she could have “taken her cancer 10xover than to watch him go through with that,” her son managed to get through it all and plus, he never allowed this illness to limit is activities or define him.
Lisa’s extensive experience with the medical community has made her something of an expert on what works and what doesn’t when receiving treatment. Wherever you may find her serving the community, you can bet that if you ask her about breast cancer she’ll lend an ear and more than a few helpful words. For instance, she recommends that everyone fully consider their options when it comes to their treatment plan. For her, “my work (life) is not founded on a body part,” and so she went with a more aggressive treatment plan. She simply “did not want to have to revisit it.” Regardless, of what your medical situation is, you should consider all your options so that you can make an informed decision about what is right for you and never regret not having understood and considered all your options made available to you, including all of the benefits and negatives with each of your possible decisions.
Furthermore, you should “make sure that you are connecting and comfortable with your medical teams, that you trust them, and if you do not, get another doctor. Personalities are complex,” and so, “if you do not feel they want what is best for you, find a new one.” Lisa, of course, is very pleased with all the experience and kindness she has received from her doctors and community in overcoming Breast Cancer.
Speaking of community, it bears saying that Lisa has been incredibly active in ours. She has participated in every Making Strides event of the last decade (except 1), is an active member of River of Life Church in Cold Spring, and is an advisor for Bridging the Gap’s Thrive conference, women’s meeting which attracts over 3,000 women to the River’s Edge center where they listen to national speakers and live music while shopping with 100+ vendor booths.
With all that she does, it may seem impossible that there is still more on Lisa’s plate, but there is. She also has helped to develop her own App called MyKin which organizes all your family’s pertinent information in one easy accessible place. Birthdays, pertinent sizes, favorite colors, wish/gift lists and more can be kept with MyKin which Demuth launched just before she went into office in 2017.
Since taking office, Lisa has largely focused on listening to her constituents who are “the lens through which I want to make every picture. I want to take that input and be that voice.” That in mind, Lisa has been hard at work on several of her committees which largely center on education finance, early childhood, and greater Minnesota Jobs.
For 2020, Lisa is already working towards correcting the enormous fraud and dysfunction recently found in the Department of Human Services so that Minnesotans can get the most out of their tax base and ensure our departments serve our citizens with the outmost of importance.
She plans to run in 2020 for another two-year term. I had spoken to her for about an hour and I believe everyone would want their politicians to be this caring and considerate to the constiuents that they serve as Lisa seems driven to do. In expectation for the race to come, Lisa states “Looking forward to the 2020 election, I will continue to work hard for the residents of District 13A and I look forward to continuing to serve as their State Representative.”