Looking back during final days in office


The end of the year is fast approaching. I don't know yet if there will be a special session addressing the undone tax and bonding bills, and the now-looming crisis for those needing health care premium relief.

What I do know is that in a few weeks my public service will come to an end. After five years on the City Council, and eight in the Legislature, I'll return to life as a private citizen. This will be the last time I write in the Budgeteer with a title after my name.

While running the Superior Hiking Trail last week I reflected on closing this chapter in life. A variety of random memories came to mind, so I'll share a few:

Promises kept: When I first ran for the Legislature, I promised to work on the issues of sanitary sewer overflows and the erosion of our state local government aid support. I'm happy to say sewer overflows are no longer headline news in Duluth, and as a result of a bill I authored Duluth's LGA has been restored to its highest level since the 1980s.

Biggest disappointment:The lack of bonding dollars for the Lake Superior Zoo. I'm a fan of the zoo because of its educational and outreach missions; kids just don't get many opportunities to be outdoors and see animals in their natural habitats. But funding for the zoo is also an issue of equity and justice. The zoo was severely damaged in the 2012 flood and while others were made whole, the Lake Superior Zoo has had to try and recover essentially on its own.

Vote I will remember most:Marriage equality. From the moment this issue arose I knew how I would vote. I kept that to myself so others who felt strongly on this important issue would feel comfortable approaching me and sharing their opinion. But this was another basic issue of equity and justice — how could I deny others that which I wanted for myself? I am proud to have been a part of Minnesota history.

Effort of which I am most proud: The Purple Caucus. I helped create a group of senators from both political parties who wanted to be "Minnesotans first." Other labels matter and the goal was not necessarily compromise. Rather, trust and relationship. Out of that came the ability to bridge differences and work together. I am proud the Purple Caucus will continue after I leave the Senate.

Thing I did which most will never know, but will outlive me: Keeping the lights on the Blatnik Bridge. When the bridge was redone several years ago, the intention was to remove the exterior lights and leave them off. The Blatnik Bridge is an iconic landmark, and symbolic of the Twin Ports. The Minnesota Department of Transportation heard my concern and invited me to help find a solution. The new lights are LED, easier to maintain and paid for by both Wisconsin and Minnesota.

Thing for which I was most grateful: To represent Duluth — a community people knew, and loved to visit. There are many places in Greater Minnesota that legislators have never — and will never — visit. Duluth is not one of them. We are a place where people love to visit, love to stay and love to play. That was an incredible asset when lobbying my colleagues for a project or need in Duluth.

This list could go on, and these are only a random sample of thoughts from a winter trail run. Truly, my biggest reflection is simply one of honor and gratitude. Duluthians, I am honored to have represented you at both the city and state levels. Like you, I am proud to call this place home and there is nowhere else I want to be. You can be assured I will continue to be engaged, active and involved in our community issues. I remain an active member of the United States Navy Reserve, so you can also be assured I will continue to serve.

I am immensely grateful to the many friends who made my service possible. They not only helped with campaign activities, but also helped with those daily activities of life that are hard to do from 200 miles away. More than anyone though, I am immensely grateful to my beautiful wife who was the best friend, supporter, cheerleader and confidant I could want. Public service is not always easy, but she made it easier. I'm excited to once again be a full-time resident, and her full-time husband.