The Real Kim Norton - Part One

August 19, 2019 10:52 PM

(ABC 6 News) -- On January 7, 2019, Kim Norton officially became the first female mayor for the city of Rochester. Many know Mayor Norton for her decade in politics as a member of the Minnesota House of Representatives, but what people might not know is the unique route she took to get to where she is today.

On September 22, 1957, Kim Jones (maiden name) was born in the state of Florida. The first of four children to a stay-at-home mom and a military father.


"My dad was in the marines. We quickly moved back to the Midwest, back where our family was. We settled in Nebraska. I grew up in the Midwest. Not with the Minnesota nice, but with the Midwest warm community," said Rochester Mayor Kim Norton.

For the Jones family, education was always important.

"The attitude of my family wasn't if you're going to college it's when you're going to college, and it wasn't where you're going to college it's you're going to college downtown," said Norton.

The first of many paths began at the University of Nebraska . Kim settled into speech pathology and audiology after being told she was too far behind to get into medical school. 

"I did that for about 3 ½ years and found myself worried about spending too much time doing paperwork, so my Junior year I switched to special education," said Norton.

She became a substitute teacher in Colorado and also went to graduate school for deaf education. She, her then husband Steve Norton, and their children would end up in Rochester, Minnesota.

"We moved here because of the Federal Medical Center as a place of employment for my husband Steve, at the time. I settled in to raising my family and getting involved in the community, doing lots and lots of volunteer work," said Norton.

Although an unpaid position, the Rochester School Board would take up a large majority of this young mom's time. 

Rachel asked, "Were you ever overwhelmed?" Norton replied, "Of course! There were bumps in the road. I got really involved in the school district's budget process.  I had a preschooler. I needed someone to watch her while I volunteered at the Edison building for 8 hours. We didn't have a lot of money. I learned a lot along the way, which led to me running for school board."

It also led her to wanting to get things done for education in the state of Minnesota.

"I went to the capital with ideas of wanting to do things. Schools needed more money. What I found, it was much harder, the recession hit fairly quickly after I got into the legislature. There was fighting for every penny we could get. I work collaboratively and I like to bounce ideas off of other people. It was becoming less and less... able to do that because everyone was in their corners. That isn't the kind of environment I thrive in and I was getting frustrated. I decided it was time to get out of the partisan world, come back to my community and do something here," said Norton.

Kim and Steve worked hard to make sure they gave everything they could to their children. But they also faced the reality so many parents face.

"I remember my kids saying where are you, and as a school board member and as part of the legislature, I wasn't always there. Those are difficult decisions to make. You're doing something for the greater good of your community. Now, I think they understand and value what I have done," said Norton.

Hard work and dedication was something Kim Norton was born into. Her passion for serving others would land her in one of her biggest roles yet. A role that would come as an entire city was developing its own path.

Part Two of 'The Real Kim Norton' airs Tuesday, August 20 at 10 p.m.


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