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  Keenan, Nancy
NameNancy Keenan
AddressPO Box 9249
Helena, Montana 59604, United States
Born February 12, 1952 (68 years)
ContributorUser 215
Last ModifedUser 215
Oct 05, 2003 08:51pm
Tags Caucasian - Liberal - Pro-Choice - Pro-Labor - NOW - Catholic - Disputed -
InfoNancy Keenan, the state school superintendent for public instruction. Keenan, 48, has held this elected position since 1989. In that office she has worked to bring technology to classrooms, maintain strong SAT scores and introduce character education to prevent school violence.

From 1983 to 1989 Keenan represented the Anaconda area in the Montana House of Representatives. Keenan said she was motivated to run when the new owners of the Anaconda copper smelter shut it down in the early 1980s. Keenan said the resulting unemployment and effect on the community "wasn't fair." After defeating five rivals in the Democratic primary, she easily won the Democratic-leaning district. Once elected to the state House, she helped pass a law requiring Montana businesses to give advance notice of shutdowns.

Before serving in Montana's House, Keenan taught children with physical, mental and emotional disabilities for 13 years. The daughter of a store clerk and a boilermaker at the Anaconda smelter, Keenan was the first in her family to graduate from college. She earned a degree in special education from Eastern Montana College while working summers at the smelter, where she was one of the first female employees. Later she earned a master's degree in educational leadership from the University of Montana.

Keenan has taken traditional Democratic stances on several national issues. She opposes privatization of Social Security and wants to include prescription drug coverage in Medicare. On campaign finance reform, she supports a ban on 'soft money,' caps on total campaign spending, and broader disclosure of campaign finances. She sent back a campaign donation from an insurance company and is also refusing money from pharmaceutical and tobacco companies. Democratic leaders in Congress have offered her a seat on the House Agriculture Committee. Breaking with Democratic leadership, however, Keenan says she opposes further expansion of federal gun control laws. On a local topic, Keenan has promised to include Native Americans in discussions of economic issues and also to protect their sovereignty. The Blackfeet have given her the name Wise Owl Woman.

I was born and raised in the copper smelting town of Anaconda, Montana. I grew up in the working class neighborhood my parents were born in, known as "Goosetown." It was a neighborhood where everyone knew each other and were there to lend a hand when times were tough. Anaconda was a town whose economy revolved around the copper smelter with the world's tallest stack.

My dad was a boilermaker at the smelter, which didn't pay enough to support five kids, so my mom worked as a clerk at the Marcus Daly Hotel and later Thrifty Drug Store. I was the first in my family that graduated from college. I was able to earn my way through college by working summers as one of the first women laborers at the smelter. It was hard and dangerous work, shoveling ore and wrangling big buckets of boiling copper. You wore an asbestos suit and counted on your workmate to beat out the flames when you occasionally caught fire.

At an early age I can remember talk around the dinner table involving lively political discussions. It was where we learned the kind of family values that stick with a person through a lifetime. Values like telling the truth, respect and compassion for other people, taking responsibility for your actions, and a sense of fairness.

I remember my dad often posing problems. When my sisters, brother, and I would protest, "But it isn't fair!" my dad would simply reply, "Then make it fair." In retrospect, that's really what has motivated my involvement in political and community matters. An old-fashioned sense of responsibility to make things fair.

After graduating from then-Eastern Montana College in Billings, I returned to Anaconda to teach disabled kids for 13 years. I guess I was trying to make their lives a little more fair. In 1980, the Anaconda Company was bought by the Atlantic Richfield Company (ARCO). That fall, without warning, ARCO announced it was closing the smelter. Our community was thrown into turmoil. With that one pronouncement, thousands of lives were turned upside down. In an instant, my neighbors, friends, and family were unemployed. It wasn't fair.

I knew I had to do something, so I ran for the Montana House of Representatives. With the help of my neighbors and fair minded-Montanans, we were able to pass a law that requires companies to give proper notice if they are planning to shut down so that the change can be planned and the blow to the community lessened. For the next six years I continued to teach and serve my neighbors at the Legislature.

In 1988, a group of friends talked me into seeking statewide office. I was able to put my background as a classroom teacher to work and ran for the office of State Superintendent of Public Instruction. Three times I have been honored by the people of Montana to serve in that office. In my twelve years as the chief advocate for Montana's school children, I've looked at every public policy question with the simple question, "Is it fair?"

DateFirmFavorableUnfavorableDon't Know
02/15/2013-02/17/2013 Public Policy Polling 38.00% ( 0.0) 26.00% ( 0.0) 36.00% ( 0.0)

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