Charlene Briner

Charlene Briner

Charlene Briner lives in Saint Paul. She is a storyteller, mother of three adult sons and formerly served as deputy commissioner at both the Minnesota Department of Education and the Minnesota Department of Human Services.


Amid our fellow citizens’ foolish choices, how do we maintain our empathy? | Essay

By: - October 6, 2021

A distant cousin of mine recently died of COVID-19. We had long ago lost touch when we both moved from our North Dakota hometown, me to Minnesota by way of stops in Florida and Georgia, and she to Texas, where she worked as a teacher, got married and raised a family for more than 30 […]

‘I stayed silent’: A former legislative staffer on the culture of sexual harassment | Column

By: - August 12, 2021

Thwack! My brain didn’t connect the sound with the sting on my backside as I stepped off the elevator. But within seconds I felt a rush of color creep up my neck and onto my cheeks as I realized what had happened. When I turned around to look at the small group of legislators and […]


The Legislature is frustrating, but it can do great things | Opinion

By: - May 4, 2021

Thirteen days. That’s all the time left in this year’s legislative session before the folks who represent us at the Capitol adjourn, returning to their communities and their regular jobs. Less than two weeks for the rhetoric to heat up and deals to be made about whether we’ll spend more on education and social services […]


The Legislature’s endless tinkering and fiddling doesn’t always lead to better outcomes | Opinion

By: - March 31, 2021

We tend to condemn what we don’t understand. When things go wrong, we look for someone or something to blame. It’s always easier to point an accusing finger outward than it is to look in the mirror and examine our own role in what went wrong. (Note to self: The potato chips aren’t to blame […]


Someone’s story will be told, but whose? | Opinion

By: - February 15, 2021

It’s that season again for Minnesota’s K-12 schools. Obviously I don’t mean spring. Nor am I talking about the perennial discussion at the Legislature about Minnesota’s education budget and whether or not it’s too big or not enough. That answer pretty much depends on whether or not you have an R or a D after […]


12 years later, still hopeful, if more clear-eyed about it all | Opinion

By: - January 20, 2021

Twelve years ago this week, I attended the inauguration of President Barack Obama. I traveled with two friends with whom I’d made a pact during long days of door-knocking for Obama and dozens of legislative and local candidates, many of whom rode the Democratic wave into office. Our pact was simple and reflected the seemingly […]


The nightmare of having a loved one contract COVID-19 in prison

By: - November 17, 2020

“Mom. I have COVID.” My heart sunk at the words I’ve been simultaneously dreading and expecting to hear since spring. The only surprise is that it took this long. My son Nick is midway through a prison sentence in Wisconsin where — as in every prison and jail in the US — overcrowding and close […]