From Clerk to US Senate: Steady Rise of Official Who Grew Up in Kenya

  • Tom Bottern, the new secretary of the Minnesota Senate, has had an illustrious career including 25 years working at the Minnesota Senate as a researcher and counsel.

    Before his rise to the top however, for the 55-year-old lawyer spent a huge chunk of his childhood in Kenya where he grew up.

    Born in Denmark, Bottern lived with his family in Uganda and Kenya as a child before settling in Shorewood, Wisconsin.

    Tom Bottern

    New chief operating officer of the Senate Tom Bottern


    When he formally joined the US workforce in 197, Bottern started out as a clerk for the Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Jeanne Coyne and worked at the Minneapolis-based law firm, then known as Faegre and Benson.

    However, he felt the pull of public service admitting that he found the work intellectually interesting because it directly affects a lot of lives.

    Bottern’s career within the Minnesota Senate dates back to 1997 when he joined the Senate Counsel, Research and Fiscal Analysis Office and rose up the ranks to the position of director in 2012.

    In an interview cited by Star Tribue, a Wisconsin media outlet, Bottern noted that the trust he built with both the Minnesota Democratic–Farmer–Labor Party (DFL) and the Republican Party was his career highlight.

    “I take a lot of pride in that, and it’s taken years to do that,” Bottern revealed in the interview.

    The new position now places Bottern right below Senate President Bobby Joe Champion during floor sessions in a role he describes as running the Senate infrastructure.

    “Members get elected to make policy. Members didn’t get elected to come to St. Paul and run the administration of the Senate,” he explained.

    According to the newspaper, Bottern met his wife, Cathy Paper, at Williams College in Williamstown, Mass. 

    The Secretary joins a growing list of United States leaders and stars who possess a connection with Kenya, including former U.S. President Barrack Obama and Wakanda Forever star Lupita Nyong’o.

    From left: Lupita Nyongo's aunt Esther, 44th US President Barrack Obama, actress Lupita Nyong'o and former First Lady Mitchell Obama at the 100th Annual White House Correspondents' Association Dinner in May 2014.

    From left: Lupita Nyongo’s aunt Esther, 44th US President Barrack Obama, actress Lupita Nyong’o and former First Lady Mitchell Obama at the 100th Annual White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner in May 2014.


Jay Ndungu

Jay is a computer scientist and journalist with a passion for the intersection of technology and society. He has a background in computer science, developing a deep understanding of the technical aspects of the industry, including programming languages and software development methodologies. Currently, He writes for Nairobi Times, covering a wide range of topics including technology, politics, sports, and entertainment. With his unique combination of technical knowledge and journalistic experience, Jay brings a unique perspective to the stories he covers, able to explain complex technical concepts in an easy-to-understand manner. His work is dedicated to bridge the gap between technology and society, and to make people more aware of the potential of technology to make the world a better place.

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