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For union members, hunting and fishing is a family passion

Adapted from the Minneapolis Labor Review, July 27, 2018

By Steve Share, Minneapolis Labor Review editor

MINNEAPOLIS —Time in the woods hunting. Time on the lake fishing. It’s shared family time, too. That’s a big part of the draw for union members who like to hunt and fish.

AFSCME retiree Mike Nelson and OPEIU Local 12 member Ashley Novak shared stories about hunting and fishing with their family members.

AFSCME retiree Mike Nelson shot this 170-lb. buck last fall on family land near Battle Lake, Minnesota. “One little shot and he was done,” Nelson reported.

Mike Nelson, AFSCME retiree

Deer hunter and AFSCME retiree Mike Nelson, 69, has been hunting for decades on family land near Battle Lake, Minnesota with a family hunting party.

“There’s something about being out there at 5:30 or 6:00 a.m. and then the sun comes out and the birds start chirping and the squirrels start chattering,” he says. “It’s one of those things — if you get a deer, great. If you don’t, you made a donation to DNR and you had a good time.”

Nelson’s hunting party currently includes godson Jeff Eddelston, a member of UFCW Local 653; son-in-law John Poulakis, a member of Teamsters Local 120, and daughter Lisha Poulakis, a member of AFSCME Local 4001.

“It’s a good time to be out there and to enjoy the time with family,” Nelson says.

Nelson grew up in Battle Lake, graduated from high school there in 1967 and went to the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. “The culture shock was going from a graduating class of 42 to an incoming freshman class of 12,000,” he recalls.

Nelson retired three years ago after working as an AFSCME member for 35 years. He worked first for the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, as a member of AFSCME Local 3142. Later, he worked as a customer service specialist for the Minnesota Secretary of State’s office as a member of AFSCME Local 2829, including 12 years as president of the local.

“When I retired, it took them about six months to get me elected as president of the AFSCME West Metro Retiree Chapter,” he jokes.

Nelson lives in Coon Rapids with his wife Suzanne, who is a retired MAPE member. The couple have two adult children and four grandchildren.

OPEIU Local 12 member Ashley Novak caught this 26-in. walleye during a trip to a fly-in resort in Ontario. “It had just rained and the sun came out. We were fishing underneath a rainbow.”

Ashley Novak, OPEIU Local 12

“My dad definitely has influenced me and my fishing as well as my boyfriend,” says OPEIU Local 12 member Ashley Novak. In recent years, along with her step-mom, they’ve taken trips together to a fly-in fishing resort in Ontario.

“What’s really special about that trip is you completely unplug,” Novak says. “It’s a lot of personal time together without any distractions.” In this remote location, she adds, “the stars are breathtaking. You never see stars that bright.”

Novak, 29,  grew up in New Brighton, graduating from Irondale High School in 2007 and Hamline University in 2011.

For her first job after college, she went to work for the Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation as the administrative assistant for then-president Bill McCarthy. After three years, she moved over to the MRLF’s non-profit arm, Working Partnerships, where she works now as community services liaison.

“I grew up in a labor and DFL household and I’ve always been interested in helping people and this job seemed like a really good mix of that,” Novak says.

Her mother, Julie Novak, is a licensed practical nurse and a member of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota. Her father, Steve Novak, is a former Minnesota state legislator.

“My dad and brother were always going fishing when I was little,” Novak remembers. She became more interested in fishing when she got involved with her boyfriend, Chris Holcomb, about six years ago. “We would do all kinds of fishing.”

But it’s the Ontario fly-in trip that Novak says she enjoys most. “I’ve been to three different continents in the last two years and that’s still my favorite trip. You catch fish and you spend time with family and you’re surrounded by such beauty.”

Related story:
Laborís booth returns to Game Fair 2018

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