Excerpts from Thursday morning’s House retirement speeches
After adjourning in the wee hours of Thursday morning, the Minnesota House of Representatives plunged ahead with the bittersweet biennial ritual of retirement speeches from departing members.
A number of House members made for their exits thanks to fallout from the new legislative redistricting map. Some, like Rep. Marion Greene, DFL-Minneapolis, departed after being paired with a fellow caucus member. Others, like Rep. Bill Hilty, DFL-Finlayson, were placed in districts that were dramatically altered by the new maps. While some of them are leaving to run for higher office, others bade goodbye to politics — at least for the foreseeable future.
Perhaps owing to the lateness of the hour, several departing reps decided to forgo any public words of farewell; their ranks included Reps. Bruce Anderson, R-Buffalo Township, who is running for retiring Sen. Amy Koch’s seat; Kurt Bills, R-Rosemount, who is running for U.S. Senate; Mark Buesgens, R-Jordan; Keith Downey, R-Edina, who is running for the SD 49 Senate seat vacated by retiring Sen. Geoff Michel; Mark Murdock, R-Ottertail; and Branden Petersen, R-Andover, who is running for the open SD 35 Minnesota Senate seat.
Here’s a taste of what those who did speak had to say.
Rep. Marion Greene, DFL-Minneapolis: “And last but not least, I want to thank Frank Hornstein. Thank you for your help two years ago with a career change. And thank you for your help this year again with a career change (laughter). Seriously, you are the best B side partner I could have here, and I know 61A is going to be in good hands.”
Rep. Bobby Joe Champion, DFL-Minneapolis: “The other person I want to think is Mary Liz Holberg. When I first came in, I was on Transportation and I always sat over on the side by Mary Liz and Rep. [Torrey] Westrom. And so they were always kind. And when she thought she should give me some advice, she always would and it was something I always took.”
Rep. John Kriesel, R-Cottage Grove: “Six years ago I was just a part-time soldier and a full-time ink manufacturer in Minneapolis. I ended up having a rough day in Iraq. Everything changed. Ended up being the worst day of my life, but at the same time I learned a lot from it. And it made me a better person, and it changed my perspective. I learned how short life is, and that’s when you really appreciate life. I learned that no matter what you want to do in life, if you put your mind to it, you can do it, even if you don’t have legs.
“So I’ll never forget Ian Marsh and Denny McNamara calling me and saying: ‘You should run for office. You should be a state representative.’ And I was like: ‘Are you out of your mind? I don’t just have skeletons, I have living, breathing corpses in my closet.’ And they said, ‘you could win.’ And with their help and with the help of my family, we did it. … This place has made me a better person.”
Rep. Kate Knuth, DFL-New Brighton: “Thank you to all the women of the House. I know that my dream of serving in this body would have been extremely difficult just 31 years ago when I was born. And less than a century ago, I couldn’t have even voted. You ladies are my constant example that we can in fact and do make progress.”
Rep. Mike LeMieur, R-Little Falls: “Last but not least, the smokin’ hot, awesome tax chair [Rep. Greg Davids]. He, along with Larry Hosch, got my first bill passed. After Hosch declared an urgency and we voted in favor of it and Hosch described my bill perfectly, I lean over to Davids and say: ‘Should I stand up and talk now?’ And he said: ‘No. Sit down and shut up!’ Went to third reading, and I said: ‘Should I talk now?’ ‘No,’ he said, ‘Sit down and shut up.’
“I’m pretty good at shutting up, so that’s what I did and it passed. I’m thinking to myself that wasn’t that hard. Then we all know what happened to my beer bill! Thanks, Representative. [Davids then told LeMieur to ‘sit down and shut up’ to laughter.]. Pardon me, members, but my good friend Rep. Davids told me my time’s up. It’s time for me to sit down and shut up. It’s time for me to go home.”
Rep. Denise Dittrich, DFL-Champlin: “Being the state representative for the city that I grew up in and where my parents still reside in has been one of the greatest honors of my life.”
Rep. Pat Mazorol, R-Bloomington: “I came in here older than most of the people here. I’ve had four decades of professional experience in four different and varied professions and thought really I had been prepared for this place, that there wouldn’t be a whole lot left to learn, just use that experience here. But I have learned so much from this place and all of you, and I appreciate that. … Someone really had a sense of humor when they assigned my seatmates. Rep. [Keith] Downey on one side and [Dean] Urdahl on the other. Sort of like the little angel and the little devil. These are my political mentors. I’m not commenting on which is which, by the way.”
Rep. Larry Hosch, DFL-St. Joseph: “Since I got elected, I’ve been married. I’ve had two wonderful children. I’m leaving not because I have a lack of passion for this job or the love of this place, but because I have a greater love and I need to be home. My kids have never watched a parade. I’ve never watched a parade. I’ve only been in them. I proposed to my wife in a parade. I’ve been in elected office for 12 years, I’ve been an adult for 15. The vast majority of my adult life has been in elected office and I’ve loved it … I was a kid bartender who was too stubborn to let someone tell him what to do. I accidentally got into politics.”
Rep. Connie Doepke, R-Orono: “This is where everything starts in the Legislature, it’s in the House. I’m going to remember that when I get your bills.” (Editor’s note: Doepke is running for the Minnesota Senate.)
Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer, R-Big Lake: “I will miss being in this place. It’s the feisty chamber, I call it. There’s a lot of energy, a lot of passion and a lot of members to share that with. Especially for me, this is the chamber where my interest in politics met reality, first sitting on the bench with my children in front of my husband’s desk, and then later on being at that desk and having my grandchildren sit on that bench.” (Editor’s note: Kiffmeyer is running for the Minnesota Senate; her husband, Ralph Kiffmeyer, is a former House member.)
Rep. Nora Slawik, DFL-Maplewood: “I just want to leave one challenge for the body. There’s a lot of work to do on early childhood [education]. The best investment that all of you can make is in human capital. That stadium vote was important. I voted for that stadium tonight. But you know what you need to do is invest in the little kids.”
Rep. Ron Shimanski, R-Silver Lake: “It was an honor for the leadership of our caucus to ask me to chair the Judiciary Committee for this year. To work with the Supreme Court justices and the district court judges is really a phenomenal experience.”
Rep. Bill Hilty, DFL-Finlayson: “I really never have believed the voice of the people is the voice of God. I mean, if that were true, clearly God is a Vikings fan. And if God’s a Vikings fan, why did he let us lose ‘four Super Bowls? I rest my case.”
Rep. Mindy Greiling, DFL-Roseville: “My proudest moment here was when I offered the new Minnesota Miracle which had funding reform and adequate funding for schools. With that great vision, I really feel bad that I’m leaving with a $3 billion debt to schools if we count all the tabs that we owe our schools, and we aren’t even calculating them in our forecast. When you don’t put a debt like that into the forecast, you don’t count it. I hope I don’t hear anyone saying we only have a $2 billion deficit in the next biennium because we know it’s really $5 billion. And if you don’t count it, and you don’t talk about it, then it means we are going to sweep it under the rug and take a long, long time to pay back our students.”