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Listening with an Open Heart

Posted by Jeff Smith, State Senator District 31
Jeff Smith, State Senator District 31
Jeff Smith, Senator District 31 (D - Eau Claire)
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on Wednesday, 18 October 2023 in Wisconsin

eauclairebridgeSen. Smith is embarking on his “Stop & Talks” tour of District 31 and announces his mobile office hours and schedule.

EAU CLAIRE, WI - Fall is here – one of the most beautiful times of year in Wisconsin. If you choose the right day and take a drive through western Wisconsin, the colors are spectacular. Beautiful as they are, they don’t last long while days grow shorter and the temperature gets colder.

Sadly for me, fall is also a sign that my “Stop and Talk” season is coming to a close. My “Stop and Talks,” or my mobile office hours, is the time when I park my old red truck near busy roads so people can stop by and share their thoughts quickly while they are on the go.

There is nothing about my job I enjoy more than having these personal one-on-one discussions. I learn so much from these talks. I am humbled by the willingness of my constituents to share their stories and concerns with me.

Some conversations may be considered bland, dry or just plain unimportant by some folks. Sometimes the smallest details are the ones that affect your life the most. The importance of collecting experiences and comparing notes cannot be downplayed, no matter how small the issue seems.

Never assume that your story, or how a policy affects you, is obvious to me or anyone else. We all walk our own path and cannot ever fully understand someone else’s. I have numerous examples of times a constituent has stopped to share their story with me and given me a new understanding of how a law has or may affect them and their neighbors. I rely on that information to inform my position on all the issues we address in the State Senate. I depend on these conversations in order to advocate for you effectively in the Wisconsin Legislature.

I wish all my constituents had the same opportunity I have to hear their neighbors’ experiences and stories. These conversations are a constant reminder to me that nothing is as simple as it may seem from only one perspective. These conversations also allow me to share my experiences in state government and keep you informed of information I have access to that might not be as readily available to your average citizens.

Not every effort to understand another’s viewpoint is easy, successful or changes hearts and minds. But we live in a democracy, and uniformity isn’t our goal. The strength of our system of government relies on civil engagement as the first step to resolving inevitable conflicts.

wi-senate-swearing-inI have spent many years in roles where I’ve represented my neighbors and their communities in local and state government. That’s taught me that sometimes, listening does not come naturally. Listening is a learned skill that we have to work on and engage in with intention.

jeff-smithIt’s also something I constantly strive to improve on in myself. When we’re very passionate about what we’re talking about, it’s natural to state one’s own position before listening to others. But as a state legislator, I’ve worked hard to keep my ears open and my mouth shut to listen more, and have often been surprised at what I learned.

In some cases, we may even reverse our own stance based on what we learn. It isn’t a sign of weakness to re-evaluate your own positions. Quite the opposite – keeping an open mind is a strength, showing others you’re someone who takes their point of view seriously. False assumptions can be swept away when we truly listen to and evaluate others’ experiences, or facts we were not aware of before.

I’m not writing this with any particular issue in mind today. Instead, I want you to know that as long as the weather cooperates, I’ll be out there having mobile office hours in my red truck, to hear about your priorities and concerns.

I hope you’ll take the opportunity to pull over and chat for a second when you see me in your community. Even if we disagree, I look forward to having conversations which help me better represent you in the state Senate. We can find agreement even in the most unlikely situations if we keep our ears and hearts open to others.

Upcoming dates and times available on my web site. If you are unable to connect with me that way, you should always feel free to contact my office at (608) 266-8546 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Senator Smith represents District 31 in the Wisconsin State Senate. The 31st Senate District includes all of Buffalo, Pepin and Trempealeau counties and portions of Pierce, Dunn, Eau Claire, Jackson and St. Croix counties.

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