IRRRB’s Tony Sertich to lead legislative reforms

Iron Range newsSunday’s Star Tribune reported on Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton’s 2014 legislative strategy. The governor hopes for a short session focused mostly on modest reforms to improve government efficiency. One interesting tidbit: Dayton will tap Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board Commissioner Tony Sertich to shepherd his legislative agenda.

Tony Sertich is three years into his position as lead official at the Iron Range’s unique economic development and public works agency, which handles the production revenue paid by iron mines in lieu of local property taxes. Prior to this, he was a member of the House representing a central Iron Range district that included Hibbing and Chisholm. Sertich was the House Majority Leader under Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher for the last four years of his service.

Here’s what Baird Helgeson wrote in the Sunday Strib:

Sertich will be a key figure for Dayton in the upcoming session. Dayton will be relying on Sertich, who spent four years as House majority leader, to employ his well-honed political instincts and long-standing connections to House members.

A mix of policy geek and political operative, Sertich is a likable and well-respected Iron Ranger with a track record for pushing difficult legislation. Sertich successfully shepherded the proposed constitutional amendment that set aside tax dollars for conservation and arts causes, despite strong opposition from some fellow Democrats.

With a short session planned, Sertich said he is not interested in plunging into divisive reforms that threaten the whole effort.

“I know the food fights are going to happen,” he said. “My role is to look for ideas we can all agree on, and there are going to be many of those.”

While it is not unprecedented for a governor to enlist a commissioner to whip votes in the legislature, it is very unusual for a Minnesota governor to select the commissioner of the IRRRB for that task. The IRRRB is a state agency with a very regional focus. But Tony Sertich’s previous experience is a little different than most of his predecessors.

I am left ruminating on this. I wrote last month about the possibility of Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon retiring, which would force Gov. Dayton to pick a new running mate for his 2014 re-election bid. Since Prettner Solon helped him win up north in 2010, could this be a try-out of sorts for Sertich?

Lieutenant Governor is one of those odd jobs — potentially important but often not. It’d be hard to get an A-list legislator to take the job and risk being relegated to obscurity. But you can’t appoint an absolute nobody to the job because they have a campaign function and could become governor at a moment’s notice.

Tony Sertich is an existing commissioner with political experience and geographic balance: that would fit the bill.


If the session goes well. If Prettner Solon retires. But I think at least one of those things looks likely.

Meantime I was able to talk to the commissioner about Iron Range issues recently. You will be hearing more on this in coming weeks.

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