Former Minnesota Secretary of State Joan Growe retired from public office almost 10 years ago. Out of the political spotlight but hardly reclusive, she travels extensively and is on the advisory committee at the Humphrey Institute. We caught up with Growe at her Minneapolis condo.
Q You were known as a workaholic in office. Have you learned to relax since you've retired?
A The condo is where I settle in. It's peaceful and comfortable, where I can get away from everything. When I was working, I was never not working. Vacation was the only time I got away from it all. Newspapers were an extension of work. Now I can relax when I read them.
Q You've lived in a condo for more than 30 years now. Ever miss the house and yard?
A I miss absolutely nothing about it. I wasn't a gardener. When I moved from Minnetonka to downtown, I gained two hours a day without the commute. Now when I leave to go on a trip, I just close the door and tell the front desk that I'm leaving.
Q You'd never know looking at your lovely home, but aren't you known to be a bit of a penny-pincher?
A No one probably remembers this, but I was a single parent raising three kids by myself. Being in public service, I'm very careful about how I budget and spend money. The sofa and chairs are from a secondhand store. Since I don't worry about kids' expenses anymore, I'm a little more extravagant now.
Q Give us an example of your extravagance.
A Tom [Moore, Growe's partner] and I purchased a 1920s Art Deco sideboard with the original carving and marble top from French Antiques on Lyndale before it closed. We paid about $2,000 for it.
Q Is there any piece in your condo that you "tolerate," like the dingy green recliner on "Frasier"?
A There is a huge, almost life-size original oil painting of Tom's great-grandfather, "The General," in front of the dining table. During the Civil War, he fought on the wrong side, for the South.
Q You seem like a neatnik. Did you have to do any serious decluttering before the photographer got here?
A I picked up and stashed newspapers and cleaned off my desk surface. It was dotted with yellow stickies telling me whom I need to call.
Q Are you sentimental about possessions?
A About some things. My grandmother's china closet with a curved glass front means the most to me. I'm half Swedish. I love my Swedish canisters for potatismjol (potato flour), frukt (fruit), risgryn (rice) and havregryn (oats).
Q Do you collect anything?
A Moose memorabilia. Eighteen collector plates with moose on them, many from Sweden. About a dozen moose plush toys. My grandkids like the tiny plastic moose that "poops" jelly beans. I bought some on trips and friends have given me some, but I'm trying not to collect any more. I've got enough.
Q How did the moose attraction start?
A Tom called me "bull moose" when he heard me giving orders to my staff at the Secretary of State's office. They all loved it. He said it with a wink in his eye. I can be kind of bossy, but I think of moose as elegant. Tom and I have seen them several times in our travels.
Q What's your Sunday routine?
A I usually go to church at St. Joan of Arc, but I skipped a couple of weeks after the Archdiocese refused to allow Dr. Steven Miles to speak. After church I read the newspapers in the den and watch "Meet the Press." If it's nice, we go for a bike ride and maybe an evening at the Guthrie.
Q You do a fair number of fundraisers here. Any tricks for loosening the purse strings besides liquor?
A Alcohol works better for charitable causes than political ones, I think. [Laughs.] No, my fundraisers are pretty simple to keep costs down.
John Ewoldt • 612-673-7633