Kelsey Johnson named president of mining group

Kelsey Johnson

Kelsey Johnson

On Thursday, the Iron Mining Association of Minnesota Board of Directors named Kelsey Johnson its next president. Johnson is an experienced lobbyist and recent Iron Range legislative candidate who grew up in Gnesen Township.

The Iron Mining Association is the primary lobby for Minnesota’s iron mining industry. Member companies, including major Iron Range taconite producers, pay dues to maintain a marketing and lobbying presence in the state.

Johnson will succeed Craig Pagel, who retired earlier this year.

“Craig has provided our industry with steadfast leadership during his tenure,” said Larry Sutherland, chairman of the IMA board, in a March 10 statement. “Our members have been well served, and we thank Craig for his leadership and dedication.

“The IMA and its members are excited to welcome Kelsey Johnson as our new leader,” continued Sutherland.  “Her experience and enthusiasm will be valuable assets as we seek responsible public policy solutions at all levels of government on behalf of the iron mining industry.”

Johnson spent five years the private business sector and three years in various roles with the Minnesota House, Senate and Attorney General’s office. Most recently, Johnson represented the Grocery Manufacturers Association as its director of state government affairs.

If Johnson’s name seems familiar, it’s because she recently ran for the state legislature as an independent in the Dec. 8, 2015 District 3A special election to replace the late State Rep. David Dill.

Her presence in that race was the subject of much intrigue at the time. The DFL primary was marked by a vigorous competition between Rob Ecklund, a strong supporter of controversial new copper nickel projects, and Bill Hansen, who opposed them.

Ecklund ended up winning the primary and cruising to victory in the general. But there was widespread speculation that, had Hansen won the primary, pro-mining forces were going to rally around the independent Johnson in the general.

That’s not a sort of thing easy to prove. Nevertheless, three months later Johnson is the official spokesperson for Minnesota’s mining industry.

“I look forward to utilizing my educational and professional experience to bring prosperity and growth to the IMA membership, the iron mining industry and Iron Range communities,” said Johnson in the statement. “It is an honor for me to have the opportunity to represent such an important industry for Minnesota and our country.”

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