Randall native has become state political leader

Originally published in the Dairyland Peach by Tom West

In 1980, when she was only 10 years old, Joyce Siegel, who lived on a farm near Randall, did not understand why President Jimmy Carter was unable to get the American hostages back from Iran. They weren’t released until the moment Carter’s successor, Ronald Reagan, was sworn in.

Those were the first political memories of the new Minnesota House Majority Leader, now known as Rep. Joyce Peppin, R-Rogers.

Joyce’s dad, Bud Siegel, worked at Camp Ripley, and they lived on a hobby farm where Joyce remembers “picking rock, baling hay and plucking chickens.”

Bud and Joyce’s mother, Janet, who passed away in 2012, had six children, although two boys have since died, one in infancy.

Joyce is a 1988 graduate of Little Falls High School, where she was involved in a variety of extracurricular activities, even trying wrestling at one point — which may be good preparation for modern political combat.

She was also involved in speech, debate and plays, which definitely have helped her later on.

A classmate, Janelle Waldock, who now works for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, remains one of her good friends. She said, “Joyce has always had politics in her blood. … Her success as a legislator is not surprising to me.”

Joyce’s favorite teachers were Dick Johnson, who taught English and literature, and Ruth Jeremiahson-Jensen, who taught speech. She credits Johnson with helping her “turn the corner on being able to write.”

As for speech, hard as it is to believe, Peppin said, “I was terrified of public speaking as a kid.”

She praises Jeremiahson-Jensen for helping her overcome that fear.

Joyce went to college at the University of Minnesota Duluth, where she chaired the College Republican chapter and worked on campaigns for local legislator Ben Boo.

Upon graduating in 1992, Joyce was immediately hired by then House Minority Leader Steve Sviggum, R-Kenyon, as a GOP field coordinator on a half dozen legislative campaigns.

Sviggum traveled the state, campaigning with local candidates. Joyce sometimes rode along. On one such swing, Sviggum introduced Joyce to another young campaign worker, Gregg Peppin, over pizza in St. Cloud.

It was a good match for someone of high political interest. Gregg and Joyce  began dating and eventually married. They settled in Rogers and are now raising two daughters..

Today, Gregg Peppin is one of the state’s leading Republican campaign strategists and has his own public affairs firm.

After the 1992 election, Joyce served five years on the staff of the House of Representatives. She left to become communications manager and vice president of public relations for US Bancorp.

She still had her hand in politics, however, as Republican chair of her local Senate district.

Her House district’s incumbent, state Rep. Arlon Lindner, a GOPer, had made some enemies because of his extremism on some issues and also for a perceived inability to complete projects important to the district.

In 2004, Joyce decided to challenge Lindner for the party endorsement. Joyce outworked him, and said when the delegates arrived at the endorsing convention, she greeted every one of them by name at the door.

Joyce won handily. Both candidates had agreed ahead of time to abide by the endorsement. However, Lindner then reneged on that commitment, and filed as  an independent.

Even though she and Lindner split the conservative vote, the district leans so heavily Republican that Joyce won easily, garnering 54 percent of the vote to DFLer Carol Holmstrom’s 27 percent and Lindner’s 19 percent.

Joyce has not been seriously challenged since, always getting at least 64 percent of the vote. This year, she did not even have an opponent.

Becoming a legislator instead of being just a staffer had its challenges, she said. “I hadn’t met with lobbyists or constituents before.”

At first, her staff scheduled her so tightly that she didn’t have time for meals or bathroom breaks. It didn’t take long before she told them they had to loosen up her schedule.

Since then, she has even had time to earn an M.B.A. in 2007 and her law degree in 2013.

Sviggum, who later became Speaker of the House, says of his former protege, “Joyce is a very committed, driven person and a very, very hard worker. She is also very committed to her young family at home. I don’t know if she sleeps very much.”

Sviggum added, “Her’s is the American success story without question.”

As majority leader, Peppin’s role will be to represent the GOP caucus. “She is conservative; that’s who she is,” Sviggum said, “but she does it with a grace. She is not unwilling to listen and cooperate to get things done.”

fter listing the usual issues, Joyce said, “We’re going to focus on those where we can make positive changes.”

Central Minnesota may have caught a break with the election of a House majority leader originally from this area.