Minnesota Girls State elects its officers

By Linda Kelley
Minnesota Girls State elected its 2024 Constitutional Officers. From left are Associate Justice Anna Rains, Auditor Gabriella Symens-Otero, Chief Justice Emmo O’Donnell, Lt. Gov. Molly Petrowitz, Gov. Toluca Tellaeche Ramirez, Secretary of State Harriet Johnson, Associate Justice Ella Hunkins and Attorney General Alexandra Fierst.

ARDEN HILLS — The American Legion Auxiliary Minnesota Girls State was held in June, and it was great. We had 177 young juniors as our citizens. They were kept very busy all week.

They learned about our governmental elections, participating in city, county, and state elections.  They wrote state and federal bills for issues that were important to them. They learned about folding the flag and witnessed a flag retirement ceremony.

Representatives from all three branches of our government spoke to citizens, including Gov. Tim Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flannagan.

Toluca Tellaeche Ramirez was elected as the governor of Girls State, and, her running mate, was elected lieutenant governor.

The following citizens were elected to Constitutional Offices:

Governor: Toluca Tellaeche Ramirez, Pine Island Unit 184

Lieutenant Governor: Molly Petrowitz, Little Falls Unit 46

Secretary of State: Harriet Johnson, Pequot Lakes Unit 49

State Auditor: Gabriella Symens-Otero, Windom Unit 206

Attorney General: Alexandra Fierst, Eagan Unit 594

Chief Justice of the Supreme Court: Emma O’Donnell, Bloomington Unit 550

Associate Justices: Ella Hunkins, Watertown Post 121, and Anna Rains, Duluth Unit 71

2024 ALA Minnesota Girls State Committee members, staff and councilors

The inauguration was held on Thursday night, with many family members enjoying the night.

The weeklong election process peaked with their trip to our State Capitol. They started out the day by singing several songs including the Girls State Song in the Rotunda of the Capitol. Part of the group moved on to debate their bills on the floor of the Senate and House of Representatives. Keeley Runge served as the speaker of the House of Representatives and Lillie Violett served as the president of the Senate.

Others moved to the courtrooms in the Judicial Building to conduct their defense or offense for their mock trial. They also had the opportunity to tour the Capitol. These experiences will stay with them as they step forward into their adult life.

Though Gov. Tim Walz was not at the Capitol on Friday, he invited the Girls State governor and lieutenant governor to visit his office and sit behind the governor’s desk. It was quite an honor.

Many participated in our Girls State Choir and talent show on Friday night.  Saturday morning found the citizens packing up and saying good-bye to their new friends.   Their governor gave her farewell speech at the final assembly. They sang the Girls State Song for the last time and even requested to sing “America, America” one more time.

It was announced that Taylor Bierwerth, sponsored by Paynesville Post 271, and Makena Ries, sponsored by Bayport Post 491, will represent Minnesota as senators at Girls Nation. They will travel to Washington, D.C., for a week in July.

Our committee and staff members hope is that this will always be a memorable week for these young people. We hope they have met lifelong friends and take away the workings of our state and federal elections.

Thank you to all units and posts that have participated in sponsoring these young people. Thank you to the Gambling Committees of three posts that donated to our program.

These Girls State citizens are our future parents, politicians, leaders, doctors, nurses, lawyers, judges, and most important they are our future voters. We wish them all well in their future endeavors.

Linda Kelley is the chairman of Minnesota Girls State.

From left are Americanism Chairman Mary Kuperus, Minnesota Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, Minnesota Girls State Director Patti Coleman, Girls State Education Director Bethany Dickert and Girls State Chairman Linda Kelly.