By Emily Bialkowski
There are people in life who walk to the beat of their own drum and have no problem living life their own special way. There are many moms like that, too. Moms who take on odd jobs, moms who have unique hobbies and moms who break tradition.
And then there’s Judy Storlie, a mom of moms and a politician to boot. Storlie is a licensed child care provider, volunteer, grandma, confidant and a Houston County commissioner. It’s that last part that is unusual. It’s not unusual for politicians to talk about child care, but very few child care providers are politicians.
“It is hard for day care providers to get away,” Storlie hypothesized about why so few politicians like her exist.
“I thought I was going to have to choose between the two, but I was able to make it work.”
Storlie is married and has four adult children. She spent the early years of her children’s lives being their mom.
“I have just been really involved with my kids. Kids have been kind of it for me,” she said.
When she was first married she did work outside the home in a garment shop but quickly learned her passion lay elsewhere. She left her job and took in a few kids at home. In 1982 she began her licensed day care business in Caledonia.
“It was different then than it is now. There was training that you needed but not the amount you need now,” Storlie said.
Once her kids were all in school, Storlie thought she’d enjoy an outside job again. Fittingly, she took a position with the La Crescent School District working in the Title I Program, a program aimed at helping kids with reading and math challenges. At the same time, Storlie was also taking in foster kids.
“I only lasted a few years at the school. Then I wanted to be back with little kids so I opened my child care center in La Crescent.”
Judy’s Daycare, known as “Judy’s house” to the kids she watches, is open from 6:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Houston County commissioners invest a fair share of time in their role. There’s documentation indicating it’s at least a 20-hour per week job. And, if the day care is open 11 hours each day, how does Storlie break away to fulfill her responsibilities?
Well, she has someone who works with her and a very supportive family, she said.
“I dropped down my numbers some, but I’m always there to open. Tuesdays are my busiest days to be gone. I also tried to be on committees that meet at night, although there are some day ones, too.”
Storlie knows her background is unique to politics but said it’s an advantage in some ways.
“I’ve had so many different life experiences, and I’ve had to communicate with people in a lot of different ways,” she said, adding that she “always followed the county stuff.”
“I always had a draw to it, and I think there’s room for people who care about people. I didn’t run to beat Jack Miller; I ran because I was interested in becoming a commissioner.”
Storlie said she has enjoyed getting to know the county employees and is very happy to see how well they all work together. “I think they do a wonderful job. If someone needs extra help, someone is always helping. You don’t find that everywhere.”
Storlie’s own children are now 36, 34, 31 and 29. She has seven grandchildren and another one the way. She’s helped dozens and dozens of day care children, foster children and parents of the children she watches.
Storlie said she thinks parents today are presented with demands she didn’t necessarily have, demands that force parents to divide their time.
“I think parents feel that there are so many more expectations today to prove that you can do everything. My daughter, for example, has four kids and works full time. She says, ‘I have a million things going on.’ I tell her just pick one and focus on it. I tell her that some things don’t matter. Take the time to enjoy your kids. It doesn’t matter if everything in your house is clean.”
Storlie knows a thing or two about dividing time. In addition to her business as a child care provider and county commissioner, she sits on the ABLE Foundation board, is a Lion, is an active member of her church and has guardianship over multiple individuals. She said her kitchen calendar no longer does the trick, so she has to carry a date book with her. She’s also getting used to people stopping her in her driveway to talk county business.
“It helps that I’ve been active. You learn to speak out and ask questions,” she said.
A mother figure to many, Storlie said she has no intention of quitting her day job soon.
“Why would I quit if I love what I do?”