Job Interview: Barber who works at the Capitol has learned it’s best not to split hairs

Ken Kirkpatrick
Ken Kirkpatrick cuts the hair of Sen. Torrey Westrom, R-Elbow Lake, at Capitol Barbers in the basement of the State Office Building in St. Paul on March 31, 2016.
Jean Pieri | St. Paul Pioneer Press via AP File

Passing legislation is a big responsibility. So is keeping lawmakers at the Minnesota Capitol looking sharp when things get, well, hairy. That’s Ken Kirkpatrick’s job.

Kirkpatrick has been working at Capitol Barbers on the Capitol campus for 52 years and has cut the locks of nearly every governor since 1972.

“Except Jesse — he cut his own hair,” Kirkpatrick said, referring to former Gov. Ventura, who eschewed traditional styles.

This conversation is a part of our “Job Interview” series, where we talk to everyday Minnesotans about the rewards and challenges of their work. This interview has been lightly edited for style and clarity. Click on the audio player for the original version.

Official title: Former owner and barber

What I actually do: Cut hair from people who are from the governor’s office all the way down to the custodians.

A great day at work: I had the keys to the building and I’d opened the building up in the morning. … I started a breakfast group with a couple of Democrats, couple of Republicans and then I would get something going so they could sit there and argue, and then I’d get up and leave.

A not-so-great day at work: Back in the 1980s, this building — there was no central air so they would put air conditioners in the windows into this shaft. Well, it was a day of about 100 degrees and humid and I called over to admin to see if I could get a new air conditioner and they said “no, that’s your responsibility.” Well, I had the governor down for an appointment in about an hour.

So what I did is: I shut the air conditioner off completely and I watched in the hallway until I seen him coming and I run in and turn the air conditioner on. He says, “It’s hot in here. What’s going on?” I said, “The air conditioners not working very good.” So he gets on the phone and they’re over there in five minutes putting an air conditioner in.

What I’ve learned: There’s only a few professions where you actually put your hands onto a person and you got to build a trust with the person when you’re doing that. Especially if you’re in a shop like this where we do shaves — putting a razor to someone’s throat.

Capitol Barbers will be temporarily closing June 26 due to construction at the State Office Building. Clients can still make appointments at

A man sits in a barber shop chair.
Ken Kirkpatrick, barber and former owner of Capitol Barbers, on May 9 inside Capitol Barbers on the bottom floor of the State Office Building in St. Paul.
Lukas Levin | MPR News
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