Sen. Steve Dille will probably not be bored when his 24 years at the Legislature officially come to an end next month. The first item on the 65-year-old Dassel Republican’s post-Senate agenda is completing a biography of his grandfather.
Dille’s grandfather arrived in Litchfield in 1896 as a Swedish immigrant and eventually was elected mayor of the central Minnesota town. He also founded the Anderson Chemical Company, which serves the dairy industry, in 1911. The biography was started by Dille’s mother, but she died prior to its completion. He hopes to have the project done in time for Anderson Chemical Company’s centennial anniversary next year.
“I have several boxes of material here,” Dille said. “I need to pick up where she left off and try to get it done by next year.”
Dille also wants to work on his own memoirs. In addition to 24 years in the Legislature, his work history includes the roles of farmer, veterinarian, Vietnam War veteran and rodeo cowboy. (He once finished fourth in steer wrestling at the National Championship High School Rodeo Finals.)
Then there’s the 640-acre farm in Dassel to maintain. Dille raises corn, soybeans, hogs, cattle, sheep, wheat and hay. One of his four grown children intends to return home from Wichita, Kansas, and raise his own kids on the family farm. “It’s a great place to raise a family and it’s an opportunity for children to have a unique set of experiences as they grow up,” said Dille.
When the Legislature gavels in next month, there will be 60 Senate and House members who no longer have a seat at the Capitol. Some left willingly, while others were involuntarily retired at the ballot box. Either way, they’ll be moving on to new jobs and challenges. Few likely have as much on their agenda as Dille. But here’s a rundown of what’s occupying some departing House and Senate members:
Rep. Mike Obermueller, DFL-Eagan, was defeated after a single term at the Legislature. He continues to practice law at the firm of Winthrop & Weinstine, where he specializes in construction issues. Obermueller, however, is not ruling out another run for the House District 38B post in 2012. “It was a fabulous job and I would go back in a heartbeat if there was an opportunity to do so,” he said.
Rep. Laura Brod, GOP-New Prague, is retiring after four terms. She’s a finalist for a slot on the University of Minnesota’s Board of Regents, representing the 2nd Congressional District. Brod’s also frequently mentioned as a potential challenger to U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar in 2012.
Sen. Mee Moua, DFL-St. Paul, didn’t seek re-election after eight years at the Capitol. She was a finalist to become president of the Ms. Foundation, which is affiliated with the pioneering feminist magazine in New York, but didn’t get the job. She’s also exploring job opportunities in San Francisco. Her name has also cropped up in the rumor mill about Dayton administration agency appointments.
Rep. Paul Kohls, GOP-Victoria, is stepping down after four terms. He flirted with a run for governor, but dropped out of the race early in the contest after faring badly in a state convention straw poll. Since the end of the legislative session, Kohls has been serving as deputy general counsel for AgStar Financial Services in Mankato, which provides credit to farmers and agricultural businesses. Kohls and his wife are also expecting their third child.
Rep. Jeremy Kalin, DFL-North Branch, opted not to seek re-election after two terms. Kalin distinguished himself at the Capitol by taking a strong interest in environmental issues and the growth of green jobs. He’s started a clean energy consulting firm that will assist private businesses in taking advantage of new opportunities in the green marketplace.
Not everyone leaving the Legislature knows exactly what’s up next. State Rep. Randy Demmer, who gave up his seat after four terms to take on U.S. Rep. Tim Walz in the First Congressional District, hasn’t made any definite plans. In the past he’s worked as a farmer and run a computer business. But keeping food on the table probably isn’t an immediate concern: In 2007 he sold off a trio of Napa Auto Parts stores that he’d started.
The Hayfield Republican is considering private sector options and also weighing another run against Walz. He came up 5 percent short this year. “I think people who have run multiple times see it as a progression,” said Demmer. “It might take two or three times to run to become successful.”
Kalin’s decision not to seek another term was shaped by personal factors. His wife works as an obstetrics and gynecology physician at a pair of south Minneapolis hospitals – a long drive from his legislative district in Isanti County. The couple recently moved into a new house in south Minneapolis, from which Kalin will operate his new consulting business.
He’s currently working with a consortium of businesses that are seeking to reap some of the benefits from the U.S. military’s goal of becoming petroleum-free by 2040. “It’s a phenomenal national security initiative,” said Kalin, “and it’s a great opportunity for a place like Minnesota that’s done a ton of work but doesn’t have much defense department presence.”
Kalin, who recently completed a law degree, cites 2008 legislation designed to improve the overseas voting system as his proudest achievement at the Legislature. Among the changes: Ballots can be sent electronically to military personnel rather than mailed. Kalin notes that the number of overseas ballots cast increased by 420 percent in the election cycle following the bill’s passage.
Kalin expects to continue to be active in DFL politics, although he’s not exactly sure in what capacity. He’s not interested in becoming a lobbyist and doesn’t want to dwell on the past. “I don’t want to be that 40-year-old guy walking around with his high school letter jacket on talking about his exploits on the gridiron when he was 17 years old,” Kalin said.