Kavita Kumar
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Opinion editor's note: Star Tribune Opinion publishes a mix of national and local commentaries online and in print each day. To contribute, click here.


Minnesota, we know you have lots of opinions.

On this crazy-warm winter we just had. On whether working from home is more productive than schlepping to an office every day. On whether life in Minnesota has been getting better or worse.

And yes, on schools, politics, crime, immigration, the environment and so much more.

For decades, debates over public policy, the culture wars, and all things Minnesota and beyond have taken place on the Opinion pages of the Star Tribune. It's been a spirited and important conversation.

We want that conversation to continue, and to invite more people to be part of it.

We want to actively welcome more people to the table in order to more fully represent who we are as a state. We want to give our megaphone to more women, people of color, millennials and Gen Zers, immigrants, blue-collar and white-collar workers, and people from around the entire state. And we want to reflect a range of thoughtful viewpoints from conservatives, liberals and those who consider themselves independent.

That's where I come in. I just started in a newly created position of community engagement director in the Opinion section at the Star Tribune. In this role, I will be reaching out to a wide cross-section of Minnesotans and asking them to contribute to our marketplace of ideas, or, as our CEO and publisher, Steve Grove, often likes to refer to this space as, the state's water cooler.

In some cases, I may feel like a certain voice is missing in the current debate about a particular topic, or that someone has something valuable to share that the rest of us would benefit from hearing. Other times, I may seek out a counterpoint to provide balance on a sensitive or controversial topic.

In the weeks and months ahead, I will be asking community leaders and a diverse group of Minnesotans to have coffee, or just to meet and chat, to hear about what's on their mind. I will also be traveling to different parts of the state to hear what people in greater Minnesota have to say and to find some additional voices and perspectives we can feature.

I'll both be looking for people who might want to write a one-time commentary for us as well as for some regular contributors who can write for us once or twice a month.

But you don't have to wait for me to come to you. If you're reading this and you have an opinion you'd like to share, our inbox, as always, is open. You can submit your commentary at tinyurl.com/submit-commentary or you can email it to us at opinion@startribune.com.

Every week, we receive dozens and dozens of submissions from the public. The Star Tribune's commentary editor reads through every piece that comes through those channels and decides which will be published. I will be working closely with that editor to identify other voices we'd like to hear from and to make space for those pieces I solicit.

If you're not sure if something you want to write about would be a good fit for us, check out the 10 guiding questions we have on our website about what we think makes a good commentary.

We welcome submissions about proposed ordinances or bills at the local or state levels because public policy is a core focus of the Opinion section. But we also love good think pieces or ruminations on life, work, culture and pretty much anything as long as it has an interesting point of view. They can be more lighthearted, too. We all need a break sometimes from the heavy stuff.

For example, some of our most popular recent commentaries were of a father who wrote about how watching Caitlin Clark strengthened his relationship with his daughter ("Dear Caitlin Clark …") and a Minnesotan who hilariously reflected on the state's warm winter after traveling to the Southwest to escape it ("Winter that never (yet) was is truly the winter of my discontent"). I offer those two pieces as a way to help get your creative juices flowing.

We do love it when we come across an artfully written piece, but you don't have to be a gifted wordsmith to write for us. What's most important to us are your ideas.

And, yes, we know you won't like or agree with all of the commentaries we run. But we hope that by publishing a wide range of viewpoints, you will find something that reflects your perspective. And if you still don't see it, write it!

Now and then, you will also see me writing columns about important community issues, and I may encourage policymakers, thought leaders, stakeholders and the general public to submit commentaries on those topics. The aim is that by having a series of commentaries, and hopefully some back-and-forth, on those tension points, we can help move the conversation forward.

Before I sign off, here's a little bit about me: I'm a Minnesota transplant via several places. I grew up in Ohio and worked at the Star Tribune for a couple of years after college. I fell in love with Minnesota's lakes, parks, arts and culture, and its unique sense of place.

I left to get a graduate degree in New York and then spent a decade in St. Louis. But I always felt I would one day return to Minnesota, which I did in 2014.

My whole career up until now has been as a reporter. I've pretty much covered it all, from bear attacks, shootings and tornadoes on the night desk to school board meetings, student protests and state funding battles as an education reporter.

On the retail beat, I've reported from the front lines of Black Friday and chronicled the ups and downs of Target and Best Buy, two of Minnesota's largest companies. Most recently, I covered the economy for the Star Tribune.

Through it all, I mostly stayed true to that golden rule for reporters to not divulge their opinions on matters, especially on issues I was writing about. When people have asked me my opinion, I've often responded with a noncommittal "it's interesting." So I'll admit this whole opinion thing is new territory for me.

But the point of this isn't for you to hear just about my opinions. It's about uplifting yours.