New District 19 Senator Amy Koch will be on the job in 2006

Amy Koch has spent her life seeking new challenges and the biggest and best may be yet ahead as she looks forward to taking her seat as the new state senator for Minnesota District 19.

Koch, a 1990 graduate of Buffalo High School, was the winner of a whirl-wind six-week campaign for the senate seat of Mark Ourada, who resigned this fall to accept a position with the Center for Energy and Economic Development in Virginia.

After Governor Tim Pawlenty issued a Writ of Special Election on October 10, Koch won the November 1 Republican Primary and went on to win the November 22 election by a wide margin over DFL candidate John Deitering and Independence Party candidate Del Haag.

The daughter of Larry and Jan Hance, owners of Hance Utility Services in Buffalo, Koch started her college career at Concordia, spent a summer backpacking in Europe, came back to North Hennepin for another year of school before joining the Air Force. During her four-year tour of duty, Koch received intensive training in the Russian Language in California where she met her husband, Chris. The couple was then assigned to the National Security Agency in Washington, D.C., where it was their job to listen in on various communications.

“We tell our daughter we were spys,” Koch laughed. “But it really wasn’t that glamorous.”

Daughter Rachel was born on Christmas Eve in 1995 in Washington, D.C. and when they completed their Air Force commitment, the Kochs moved back to Minnesota. And they brought Chris’ family with them.

“Chris is from Colorado, but he’s from an Army family, so he’s lived all over the country,” Amy said. “His mom and step-dad (Deb and Bill) came here to Rachel’s baptism and loved it here. They didn’t want to leave.”

Deb and Bill now live in the Maple Lake area and that isn’t Amy’s only local connection. Hance Utility Services and Hance Locating, two companies owned by her parents, were housed in the Jude Industrial Park until Hance Locating was sold in 2001 and Hance Utility Services moved to its current headquarters in Buffalo.

Amy joined the family business in 1996 and was able to use her Russian language training to earn credits toward a degree in Combined Studies with a minor in Business Administration from St. Cloud State in 1998.

On the job at Hance Utilities, Amy said she can be found doing everything and anything.  “You name it, I do it,” she said. “I mop the floor, answer the phone and negotiate contracts. It’s a family business, so I do whatever it takes.”

Chris is a senior director of training and safety for a company based in Atlanta, tele-commuting from Buffalo and traveling when necessary.

Over the past decade, Amy has developed a long resume of both political and community involvement. She is a former secretary and vice chair of the Senate District 19 Leadership Committee and has campaigned for District 19A Representative Bruce Anderson, Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer and Congressman Mark Kennedy. As a community volunteer, she has served as an adult leader for 4-H and the Wright County Wave Swim Club. She currently serves at St. Francis Xavier Church as vice chair of the Parish Council, as well as liaison to the Education Advisory Board.

“It’s just how I do things,” Koch said. “I’m just one of those people who just has to be busy.”

In the Minnesota Senate, Koch will be taking her busy schedule to a new level.

“It’s going to be difficult,” she said. “I would qualify for an apartment in St. Paul, but my daughter is here. We’ve got grandmas and grandpas, aunts and uncles and they say they will all do what it takes to make this work.

“No one in our family has even moved out of Wright County,” she laughed. “We like it here.”

Koch has talked with Ourada and has traveled to the capitol in preparation for the start of the 2006 legislative session on March 1. She said bonding requests will be a major issue this year, which will include the drives to establish a hospital in Maple Grove as well as the stadiums sought by the Vikings and the Twins.   But Koch said that serving her district will be her top priority, as will learning what it takes to be an effective representative for her constituents.

“I don’t want to put myself in the position of throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks,” she said. “As a freshman senator, I think it will be important to pace myself.”

And it will be important to listen.

“There is a customer service aspect to this position,” Koch said. “When people have complaints, you want someone to listen. If there is something that can be done, you want someone to take action. There’s not always going to be an easy answer and you have to be willing to say that to people. I think they will respect that.”

Koch said that having the support of Rep. Anderson will be a big advantage during her freshman year, as will the connections that her family has made over the years.

“I’m going to try to get to city council meetings, Chamber of Commerce meetings, Rotary meetings and just get out there,” she said. “And just for having lived here so long, my family has lots of connections and that will be helpful in keeping me in contact with my district,” she said.

The swearing-in ceremony will take place on Thursday, January 5, at 10 a.m. in the Senate Chambers at the Capitol and Koch said that no matter what difficulties might lie ahead, she is looking forward to her newest challenge.

“For me, this is just another way to be involved in your community,” she said. “It’s what you do–you give back.”