Home » News » Liberty + Leadership Podcast – Desiree Koetzle on the Practice of Leadership

Liberty + Leadership Podcast – Desiree Koetzle on the Practice of Leadership


Desiree Koetzle ’02, PPF ’07, is the chief of staff for U.S. Representative Pete Stauber of Minnesota, having perviously served as deputy chief of staff for U.S. Representative Erik Paulsen of Minnesota. Desiree spent six years in the private sector working as a federal affairs representative at Koch Industries and as a government relations analyst at Blank Rome Government Relations. Desiree received a bachelor’s degree in communications from St. Cloud University. In 2002, she participated in the TFAS Business + Government Relations program, and she was a TFAS Public Policy Fellow in 2007.

In this week’s Liberty and Leadership Podcast, TFAS President Roger Ream ’76 and Desiree discuss how TFAS helped launch her career, how lobbying unfairly gets a bad rap, the perils of government overspending, the types of leadership required in running a congressional office, the ups and downs of their Minnesota/Wisconsin Vikings/Packers rivalry, and how congressional partisanship might be quelled if members just sat down and had a drink together.


Episode Transcript

The transcript below is lightly edited for clarity.

Roger Ream [00:00:00] Hello and welcome. I’m Roger Ream and this is the Liberty + Leadership Podcast, a conversation with TFAS alumni who are making a real impact in politics, public policy, government, business, philanthropy, law, and the media. Today on Liberty + Leadership, I’m joined by Desiree Koetzle. An alum of TFAS’ Business and Government Affairs Program, and the chief of staff to Representative Pete Stauber of Minnesota’s eighth District. Desiree has been with Representative Stauber’s office for 14 years, starting as a legislative assistant in 2009. We’re going to discuss her long career in government, her thoughts on the incoming Congress and the recent elections, and how her time at TFAS has shaped it. Desiree, thanks so much for taking the time to join me. I’m really excited to talk with you today.

Desiree Koetzle [00:00:53] Well, good morning, Roger, and thanks for having me. Thrilled to be here with you this morning and Merry Christmas, where I’m just up here in the winter wonderland of northern Minnesota. Not quite as beautiful as northern Wisconsin or anywhere in Wisconsin, as you know, but happy to be with you this morning.

Roger Ream [00:01:07] Well, thank you. As Desiree knows, I grew up in Wisconsin, a bit across the border in the Milwaukee area, but had opportunities to go to northern Wisconsin for summer camp and see some of Minnesota as I was growing up. And it’s a beautiful state and great people. I might begin by asking you, since we both grew up in what I call the upper Midwest, do you think there is such a thing as Midwestern values that kind of define those of us from the Midwest that maybe differentiates us from other parts of the country?

Desiree Koetzle [00:01:45] Well, absolutely I do. And as we were just talking, it’s well below zero right now. We have a different kind of grit as well. You got to just make it and survive. And I think we have some of the hardest working, most honest and humble people in the country and on the planet. I think we just have great people up here. So the work ethic, especially of the upper Midwest, is something that is well recognized throughout the country. And I’m just thrilled to be a native of northern Minnesota.

Roger Ream [00:02:15] You grew up in northeast Minnesota. You went to Saint Cloud University. And some time while you were there, I guess you discovered The Fund for American Studies and our summer program in Washington. How did you discover us? How that come about, that you came to our program?

Desiree Koetzle [00:02:33] Yeah. So it was actually 20 years ago this summer that I attended The Fund for American Studies and I did the business and government affairs or government relations program. I can’t believe it’s already been 20 years, but how I first found out about it was I was active in the student government at that time. I think I had just ran for student body vice president and my really good friend at the time was the student body president. We ran together and he had done the program, I think the summer of 2001, and then I did it the following summer. So I heard about it through another classmate of mine at Saint Cloud State University, and The Fund changed my life in the course of my career and the direction because of that summer at TFAS.

Roger Ream [00:03:13] Do you remember much of the courses you took or your internship or perhaps your classmates and your experience?

Desiree Koetzle [00:03:22] Absolutely. So the courses that we took in that at that time, we were still at Georgetown University, lived on the campus there. It was fantastic. It was the first real entree I’d had to Washington, D.C. My parents are blue collar workers. I was the first person to go to college in my entire extended family. So the opportunity that it allowed me to explore Washington, D.C. and live in Georgetown and just be alongside amazing classmates that I still have as friends today was an incredible experience and I really am just thankful for what The Fund did for me, not only that summer, but then also help me launch my career. The classes that I took were parts that I remember the most are just the dialog that we had about just government today. You know, the interconnections between government affairs, the lobbying world and what that means for every American. There’s lobbying that touches every single American today. And most people don’t actually realize that. But people in Washington are advocates for virtually every industry and every important issue that Americans are facing today. And so the courses that I remember the most were based on just learning more about that. We had amazing guest speakers and lecturers. And in fact, I just want to note one of them was Juanita Duggan and she was just an incredible person. I remember her distinctly and she and I kept in touch throughout the years. And my heart is broken at the news of her passing and in the sudden passing of her. It’s just heartbreaking. She was an incredible person and gave so much to TFAS and to individual students like myself but I remember that fondly and that was a huge thing that opened my eyes to the world of Washington and the opportunities there.

Roger Ream [00:05:13] Juanita Duggan was serving on our Board of Trustees when she died suddenly a few weeks ago. And it came as just really shocking news to get that word. She died far too young and was an influence on a lot of people and had been president of the National Federation of Independent Business and the Paper Products Forestry and Paper Products Association and others. So yeah, that’s a big loss and I appreciate you mentioning that. By the way, just the other day, I recorded a podcast with Professor Mike Collins, who you might have had for the power and values course that summer. He taught that for many years. It’s a course that is a little different than a typical college course, I think, but it’s one a lot of students refer to. And you mention the word lobbying. And one of the reasons we started that program in 1990 is that lobbying does have a bad connotation. It’s viewed as something that’s corrupt. And we like to try to point out to students that lobbying is the way you redress grievances. It’s in the Constitution that citizens have a right to do that. It’s a way to get information to congressmen. Most lobbyists are honest and are trying to present a side to an issue that maybe people on congressional staffs haven’t been familiar with. Could you talk a minute about this idea because you’ve worked in the private sector and in the public sector, but what lobbying really is all about?

Desiree Koetzle [00:06:49] My first job was thanks to TFAS. I had come in and I had been looking for a job. I had moved back to Washington, D.C. a year after I had done the program. And you know, I had been looking and looking and looking. I couldn’t find a job, actually, in Minnesota. And for me, it was just I had asked the staff over at TFAS and they helped me get a job at a lobbying law firm. And so that was my first entree into actually working in the lobbying profession, was a junior lobbyist. And I did that for three years and TFAS was actually the reason why I got the job. It was a contact that one of the staff at TFAS had at the time and I got a job there at our lobbying law firm. It was amazing. And I think that the biggest thing that people need to learn about lobbying is that, like I said, it touches every facet of, you know, various Americans, whether you’re young or older. Every industry has a lobbyist. And it’s really important, actually, to make sure that we have advocates talking to members of Congress so that we are making sure that Congress is putting forth legislation that makes sense. I mean, truly, lobbyists and the folks downtown and throughout the country, because not every lobbyist is in Washington. They’re the experts that Congress and staff lean on to make sure that we’re putting forward smart policy that is going to make a difference or change things that are not great in this country. And so we rely on lobbyists for their expertize. And I think it’s just not only a noble profession, not every lobbyist is great, but we can name various folks in various professions that are not always great. But the majority, vast majority of them are just fantastic. People that are, like I said, experts in their field. And we rely on greatly. And, you know, I had lobbied actually for five years. I went to a lobbying law firm after TFAS helped me get my first job. And then I went to Koch Industries for two years before I then pivoted to the Capitol Hill. And the other thing I would like to say is that I kind of did that backwards. Roger, you know that most people actually go to Capitol Hill, get Capitol Hill experience, understand being a staff, and then they actually go downtown and lobby. I kind of did it backwards. And I will tell you that a lot of folks on the Hill say, you know, it’s really helpful that you have the knowledge from downtown to make a difference on the Hill. I have an understanding of the dynamics of what it means to be an advocate. And I brought it as a skill set that I still use today in my current job as chief of staff for my hometown congressman. So it’s a  skill set that a lot of people don’t have on the Hill. And I think that it’s something that people should consider more.

Roger Ream [00:09:31] Yeah, that is a different type of path. So you worked in the private sector more recently, you’ve been working in Congress. You also spent some time in Thailand, as I recall. What was that experience like? Fascinating to have spent years there.

Desiree Koetzle [00:09:49] It was fascinating. And so actually during our wedding rehearsal, my husband got a job offer to move to Thailand and literally took the phone call when the pastor was waiting at the end of the aisle during our rehearsals. That was funny.

Roger Ream [00:10:03] And you still said, I do.

Desiree Koetzle [00:10:07] That’s right. And it was really fun because my husband at the time was working for Chevron at their headquarters out in California. I was working for then-Congressman Eric Paulsen was my first member that I worked for, who is from Minnesota three and represented that district for ten years. And so I didn’t really want to leave my job. I loved my job and I didn’t want to move to California. But I think it was an answer to prayer that we ended up being able to just go and start fresh in Bangkok. And my husband actually was a lobbyist for Chevron. And it brought to light actually a new lens to look at lobbying, actually, because he ran government affairs for Southeast Asia, for all our operations there. So you know, I worked at the American Chamber of Commerce there, and they had obviously advocacy issues before with American companies that have a presence in Southeast Asia and obviously in Bangkok. And that was really exciting. But my husband was able to do that and that was really fun to watch the skill set of lobbying and how you kind of explain that to and teach a team in various other countries. We have a much more sophisticated lobbying apparatus here in the United States than most, if not any other country in the world. And it was fun to watch local professionals learn from that and do things differently sometimes, but also, you know, be successful in local Southeast Asia countries. So that was a lot of fun.

Roger Ream [00:11:35] Great experience. So you came back to Washington and then went back to the Hill?

Desiree Koetzle [00:11:39] Yes. And so I have two young boys now that were both born in Thailand. And so I just wanted to enjoy my time with them when they were young. And then when my current boss was running, both of my boys were school age. And so I thought it was time, I was ready to go back full time. And Congressman Stauber, I first met him when he was just running for the seat, and he knew that I was from his district just north of where he’s from in Duluth. And I said, I would love to work for you. And I’ve been his chief of staff for the last four years, actually, and it’s been an amazing ride. He’s a wonderful person, works hard for our district every day and we’ve built a great team and we’ve gotten a lot of great things done. Even in the minority, we’ve been able to be very successful and I’m looking forward to January 3rd when the Republicans take over and and hopefully we can have even more successes than we’ve had over the last four years.

Roger Ream [00:12:33] Let’s talk a little bit about that. You work for a Republican and the Republicans have now captured control of the House by a thin margin. How will that change things for your office?

Desiree Koetzle [00:12:46] Well, that’s a great question. And I think a lot of people, your average person in the US probably doesn’t understand all the dynamic changes on that front. I do think that our office will be a lot busier in general. Like you said, it’s a tight margin for Republicans. So the idea of passing major, major pieces of legislation may prove itself to be difficult. That being said, I think the American people want us to be doing more. We did flip the house, albeit by only five seats. And I think that we’re going to be just busy making sure that we’re trying to get as much done as possible and sending over to the Senate and see what they’re willing and able to do over there. I do think that for our particular office, my boss will be chairing the Energy and Minerals Subcommittee. So all the federal leases for both onshore and offshore for oil and gas development in this country falls under the jurisdiction of that. And right now, as you know, energy prices are just killing our economy and folks throughout the country and especially here in northern Minnesota, where we heat our homes with a lot of natural gas. And so just making sure that we’re promoting policies and working with this administration to make sure that we’re putting forward more oil and gas leases, it’s really important for us. And then mining is a huge issue for us in northern Minnesota that my boss is now, that’s the reason why he’s chairing that subcommittee. We have 98% of our America’s nickel, our world’s nickel, 88% of our copper, and a third of our nickel here. And that’s really important that we are accessing America’s minerals instead of getting it from other countries like Russia and China or Chinese run mines in other countries. So this is something that we work really hard to promote. It’s a great opportunity for Minnesota and the country to make sure we’re bringing back and securing ourselves in the national security front by using our minerals, so super wonky in policy. Why is there? But that’s the stuff that we’re hoping to work on in this next Congress.

Roger Ream [00:14:49] Yeah. Why do you think Republicans underperformed at least expectations in the midterms? Do you have a sense of that? You know, I think the expectation was possibly taking over the Senate, but certainly a larger margin in the House. Was it a failure to kind of nationalize the election or articulate issues effectively?

Desiree Koetzle [00:15:10] Well, I think there’s a number of reasons. But I do think the polling was accurate for the first time in a couple of cycles, actually. And the biggest thing for me is that, from what I’ve observed that we’ve talked about, you know, I’ve talked about with other chiefs of staff and other folks on the political side is that, you know, the Democrats have gotten really good at collecting ballots. And even though Republicans tend to want to vote on day of or maybe do some early voting, I think voter registration needs to be a huge priority for Republicans. The Democrats have really gotten good at this. And even though you and I may or may not agree that, you know, Election Day is now election six weeks or stuff like that, we as a party actually need to be going and making sure that we’re registering voters and then getting their ballots where obviously aboveboard and legally in each state. But this is something that we need to look into more. I really think that the polling was accurate. I think it was supposed to be a bigger wave than we were anticipating. That being said, it is because we failed to go and, you know, make sure those voters were actually registering and getting their ballots in. Florida actually did a great job of this. And I think that we can be replicating that throughout the country with the various state laws that are in place. So I think the next cycle, we have a huge opportunity to learn from 2022 and do much, much better in many other places than we did in this cycle. I’m looking forward to 2024. I think we’re going to do do much better and learn from this lesson. So I do think also the you know, the very touchy subject of, you know, like abortion and things like that. I think that Democrats were effective on that front despite the economy being as poor as it is. But that’s something that Republicans can learn from as well.

Roger Ream [00:16:53] One issue that seems to loom over everything but isn’t getting the attention that I think it deserves is just the massive increase in government spending. You know, it started when COVID started and the Trump administration was in it continued certainly under the first two years now of the Biden administration. And it’s being done, you know, through a tremendous amount of government borrowing and the monetization of debt by the Fed. Its led to inflation. Do you see that Congress is in any way serious about trying to do something about the serious financial problems that, you know, have been building for decades, really with unfunded liabilities and government debt? How do we get Congress to, you know, act on those issues?

Desiree Koetzle [00:17:42] I do. I think we can. I do think that, you know, the five seat majority is making things very complicated for Republicans on the House side. And obviously, we did not win the Senate, which is very unfortunate if you’re going to talk about debt and the serious situation that this country is in on that front. I agree, I think it’s very dire, and I think that we should be focusing on this a lot more. I mean, we’re supposed to be voting, as you know, on this huge 1.7, almost $2 trillion omnibus. And, you know, when I first came to D.C. and met you, you know, just over 20 years ago, a trillion dollar bill was unheard of. I mean, the fact that we’re just churning out trillions and trillions and trillions of dollars of spending in a matter of just months over and over again is terrifying. And it’s not what the American people need. It’s not what your grandsons need. And it’s something that we need to stop and really think about how we’re doing business in Washington. So I think I mean, the omnibus, obviously, as of right now is being threatened by a title 42 provision by Senator Mike Lee of Utah. He obviously wants to make sure that we continue to extend that. So the latest on the news this morning is that the omnibus we’ll see what happens on that. But we do need to get control of this because what our country is facing right now is not good. And it’s only going to get worse if we don’t get it under control.

Roger Ream [00:19:05] When this podcast airs, I assume our audience will know what happened with the omnibus. But it is interesting and we’ll see if anything positive came out of the congress. I noticed when Congressman Stauber named you as his chief of staff, he cited your work ethic and your leadership skills. And on these podcasts, I like talking about leadership. Do you think leadership is something that is just you’re born with it or you aren’t or can young people learn to be leaders as they look at the examples of other people who lead or try to learn the skills of leadership?

Desiree Koetzle [00:19:51] It’s a great question, I think some people are just born innate leaders. I think the best ones probably just are from their gut, just are that way. That being said, I think leadership skills can be developed and learned over time, and it’s a combination of those two that really make the most sound leaders that people want to follow. This is stuff that we’re working on actually in our own office. We’ve had a person come in who’s been a coach for CEOs and executives. It’s a new program, actually, that the House is bringing forward to make sure that members of Congress kind of can be coached on their the vision of service and what do we want to make sure that their staff want to do in 3 to 5 years. And how can we make sure that the office is running at a capacity that is serving their constituents, but also making sure that they have ability to get things done? And I really think that, you know, if you look at members of Congress as the most privileged people, frankly, I think, that have ever been able to walk the planet serving our great country. But they don’t always have the background of leadership skill development. Yes, they’re a member of Congress, but they might not have all those skills that they’re using yet. And I really think that this program that we’re using right now is helping my boss develop his leadership skills and my staff. And that’s something that I’m excited for the next Congress that even more members are going to participate in. And the other thing to kind of consider is just even though somebody might be a member of Congress or a chief of staff, we can always continue to develop those skills and build on that and be really thinking outside the box of what else can we be doing as leaders in this country? Because our country needs it right now.

Roger Ream [00:21:39] Just to get a better understanding of congressional office. How many employees are there in a typical congressional office, and how does it break down between staff in Washington and staff in the district?

Desiree Koetzle [00:21:51] On the House side, obviously, we have smaller offices than the Senate. I have about eight folks in our D.C. office and about eight folks in our district office. My boss’s district spans for hundreds of miles. It’s actually larger than the state of West Virginia. And so we have four different district offices that our staff there work at, and then a main flagship office near his home in Hermantown, just outside of Duluth. And then also on the campaign side, we do have campaign staff as well. So we’re managing about anywhere between 20 and 25 people with various duties for each of them is a challenge. But it’s also a lot of fun making sure that everybody’s performing as well as they can. And like I said, trying to deliver results for our district.

Roger Ream [00:22:42]  I should point out Congressman Stauber’s district goes from Duluth in Lake Superior in the east across the top of Minnesota. Then does it go down as far as north of Minneapolis, Saint Paul?

Desiree Koetzle [00:22:55] Yes, exactly. So actually, after redistricting, our district got bigger because we had population loss, whereas the Twin Cities suburbs districts got smaller because they gained population. So as a result, we have more travel and more windshield time. But yes, it goes from the northern border up to Canada, all the way to the exurbs of the Twin Cities suburbs out west into, you know, obviously we’re touching congressmen, Fischbach’s districts. We have some agriculture out there. And then we also have all along the North Shore in Lake Superior. So it’s a vast and beautiful, I think the most beautiful district in Minnesota. The geography, the lakes and the natural resources that we have here to offer are just unsurpassed by any other congressional district in my opinion. It’s gorgeous up here.

Roger Ream [00:23:40] And I guess it’s true, the typical congressman like representative Stauber. Does he head back to the district almost every weekend when Congress is in session? He’s heading back?

Desiree Koetzle [00:23:54] He does. And Roger, I think this is one of the hardest parts of serving in Congress. You know, he’s got four children and he just adopted a little one. He and his wife did. And then they’re fostering another one and hoping to adopt that one. So they have six kiddos and, you know, just very noble of them to take on fostering and adopting in addition to their own four children. But, you know, being a member, like I said, not only one of the most privileged positions on the planet, but also one of the most busy. And you have a lot of commitments to make. And so members generally do go home depending on where their district is or their family situation every weekend. But if you’re from California or Alaska or Hawaii, you know, that’s not an option for you. And so some folks do move their families to Washington. And in a lot of ways, I can understand why people would want to do that. You know, 150 years ago, that was very common practice to have your your family there in Washington with you. And that’s where you got the work done. And I think that’s why members actually, you know, were able to work more together because they spent time together, they did weekends together, activities together, dined together, their families knew each other. And I think that’s part of the brokenness in Washington that we have today. And I do think that we can change that. But it’s a big part of why we don’t have that anymore, because we just all go home on the weekends, which is very good to go back to your district and be with your constituents. But on the same token, it comes at a price where relationships in Washington and the exhaustion on the member can really be a lot.

Roger Ream [00:25:21] Yeah, and even less than you said 150 years ago, I think. But even, you know, 60, 70 years ago, because I remember Congressman Walter Judd from Minnesota, he was one of our founders of The Fund for American Studies and involved for many years and his daughter was telling me about the fact that when she grew up in Washington, her father was a congressman. They belonged to clubs and went to schools with other members and their children. They’d be together on the weekends. And you’re right, it leads to at least stronger personal ties between members across the aisle. And our chairman likes to say, used to be able to walk the halls of Congress at night and you’d hear the sound of ice in glasses as congressmen were socializing, chips if they were playing poker and conversation taking place across party lines. And that’s lost if members are having to head out of town on Thursday night and come in Monday night for the voting that takes place. So we got to find out some other ways to try to build those ties, I guess. And in the modern age of easier travel than getting on a train to get back to the district.

Desiree Koetzle [00:26:38] That’s right. And I do think COVID actually made a difference to, you know, proxy voting has been going on the House side for over two years. And so these members, a lot of them haven’t even been in Washington for some of them since they swore in Speaker Pelosi. So again, when the Republicans take over, I do think that will change as well in making sure that we’re physically there together, whether we like it or not, and hopefully talking to each other more and getting more things done.

Roger Ream [00:27:05] As a chief of staff and I’m sure it’s true for most officers. I imagine most staff, of course, live in Washington, D.C. But you still you travel back to the district on district business, not only because I know you’re from the district, but are you on the on the plane a lot heading back to Minnesota?

Desiree Koetzle [00:27:25] My two boys were now 9 and 11 have been able to go back here to our cabin where I’m at right now and spend summer here at the lake on Vermilion in northern Minnesota, which has been wonderful because I want them to feel like they’re from here and they can be near family and cousins and just be outside and enjoy the great outdoors. And so, yes, I do fly back and forth a lot. And not every member is able to have a chief of staff who is from the district. And I’m just so thankful that I can work for my hometown member. It makes such a difference. Just the relationships of the folks that I grew up with and know and my family’s here. And so I do come back and forth about every 4 to 6 weeks and it’s just really nice to come back and meet up with folks here and get business done here along with my boss. So I do it quite a bit.

Roger Ream [00:28:13] What advice would you offer to young people, college students, let’s say, who want to follow your path and get involved in politics or work on Capitol Hill, in Congress?

Desiree Koetzle [00:28:23] Sure. I think it’s really important to know that you can do this. You know, like I said, I had never been to Washington. The Fund for American Studies internship program came to me and in college as the first person in my family to go. And like I said, it changed the trajectory of my life, my career, how I met my husband, all of these things. And so I really think that if you put your mind to it, it’s definitely worthwhile and it’s important work that we do in Washington. If you want to work on Capitol Hill, our country is in need of people that are willing to do the hard work, have the grit and fight for what’s right and the liberties that we need to hold dear and continue to hold dear and make sure that we get our country on a path that ensures everybody has the success that we’re looking for. So I really think that if it’s something that you’re passionate about, feel free to find me and you can find me on my emails, desiree.koetzle@mail.house.gov. I love to talk with students. We host TFAS interns in our office. And I just think it’s so important to make sure that people know that they’re needed. I need staff up there and we need future leaders to make sure that this country can continue to thrive like it has been for so long. And I think it’s really important that we continue to invest in young people. And I’m here to help, if I can, any more than then we are.

Roger Ream [00:29:54] You’ve been great, Desiree as a TFAS alum, not only hosting the interns in your office, which is a wonderful opportunity. And many of our interns do like to work on Capitol Hill. But you’ve also been generous as a supporter of scholarship funds for students. And we rely on alumni to give back through our scholarship funds. And you’ve done so generously. I’m very appreciative of that. It’s important to us because students come to us with financial need and they wouldn’t be able to attend a program without a scholarship often. So thank you for that. Would you consider yourself optimistic about the future? Do you think the country can kind of heal the division perhaps and grapple with the serious problems we face and that the rising generations are up to the challenge and the future is going to be bright for our republic for years to come and the American experiment will continue successfully?

Desiree Koetzle [00:30:51] Well, as somebody who is a grandfather and somebody who has young children, myself, I think the only choice we have is to be optimistic. I think our children need to count on that from us. And, you know, I’m also a realist. And I think that we need to make sure that we’re changing the way we’re doing business, whether it’s, you know, the extraordinary debt that we’re building for our children, grandchildren, great grandchildren at this point. We need to get that under control. But there are definitely things that Republicans in just a couple of weeks can start doing to change the course of this country. And I remain hopeful and optimistic that ultimately our best days are ahead of us. We have been blessed to be born in the greatest nation on earth. And I think that we need to keep reminding our our kids and your grandchildren that even if they’re told that this country is awful in so many ways, that it truly is an amazing, amazing place to be and to be born and to grow up in and to work in. And we need to make sure that we continue to be that country.

Roger Ream [00:31:58] Well, good. I know one thing that’s divided the two of us is our football loyalties. You being a Vikings fan and me being a Packer fan. This is one time, one season and many that your Vikings are finally ahead of the Packers and having a great season. They had a great comeback recently, the biggest comeback in NFL history. Do you find time to get to any Vikings games?

Desiree Koetzle [00:32:30] You know, we haven’t. You know, our cabin is three and a half hours north of the Twin Cities. So I don’t but I would love to some day. One of our staffers went to the game and he’s a huge football fan so he enjoyed it thoroughly. You’ll enjoy this. My boys have been Packers fans because they always used to beat the Vikings, but now they’re switching over to be Viking fans.  But they’ve enjoyed watching the games on TV throughout the season for the Vikings. So hopefully our luck continues. I’m not going to hold my breath.

Roger Ream [00:33:03] Well, one question I have about your district. And you mentioned living on a lake, having a place on a lake up there. It’s beautiful country in the Northwoods. Does the lake warm up enough to do water sports in the summer and swimming in it or does it stay cold all year?

Desiree Koetzle [00:33:23] Yes. Even if we have friends from Washington, D.C., they might think it’s a little cold. I think we definitely enjoy the summer months up here. Take the fishing boat out, take a boat out and go swimming. The deepest part of the lake, I think, is only about 75 feet. So, I mean, it’s the fourth largest lake in in the state. So it’s quite large and very picturesque, about 365 islands. It’s gorgeous. I mean, it just touches the Boundary Waters Canoe area as well. So it’s just very idyllic in terms of the scenery. Well, we love it. We love to go fishing, boating and just enjoying the loons out on the lake late in the evening, it’s wonderful and very peaceful. So I’m very thankful that we have it. You have to come up here sometime.

Roger Ream [00:34:07] Yeah, I would love to. Desiree Koetzle, thank you so much for being my guest today. It’s been a pleasure to talk to you to discuss some of the issues facing the new Congress and to hear about how your TFAS experience has shaped your career. We’re so grateful and proud to call you an alum, so I wish you the very best as the New Year rolls out in the coming months.

Desiree Koetzle [00:34:33] Well, thank you so much, Roger. It’s always a pleasure to be with you and Merry Christmas. And I hope to see you soon and go Vikings.

Roger Ream [00:34:40] Thank you.

Roger Ream [00:34:41] Thank you for listening to the Liberty + Leadership Podcast. Please don’t forget to subscribe, download like or share the show on Apple, Spotify or YouTube or wherever you listen to your podcasts. If you like this episode, I ask you to rate and review it, and if you have a comment or question for the show, please drop us an email at podcast@TFAS.org. The Liberty + Leadership Podcast is produced at kglobal Studios in Washington, D.C. I’m your host Roger Ream and until next time show courage in things large and small.

About the Podcast

TFAS has reached more than 46,000 students and professionals through academic programs, fellowships and seminars. Representing more than 140 countries, TFAS alumni are courageous leaders throughout the world forging careers in politics, government, public policy, business, philanthropy, law and the media.

Join TFAS President Roger Ream ’76 as he reconnects with these outstanding alumni to share experiences, swap career stories, and find out what makes their leadership journey unique. With prominent congressmen, judges and journalists among the mix, each episode is sure to excite your interest in what makes TFAS special.

If you have a comment or question for the show, please email podcast@TFAS.org.

View future episodes and subscribe at TFAS.org/podcast.


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