Prettner Solon to leave, but door still open
ST. PAUL — Twenty-five years of public service is enough for Yvonne Prettner Solon, at least for now.
Prettner Solon said Dayton did not ask her to leave, nor did he encourage her to stay. She will serve out her term, which ends early in 2015.
Last summer, she hinted at discontent with her lack of input into administration decisions, saying Dayton seldom talked with her.
“I think I expected to be more involved in policy initiatives,” Prettner Solon said Tuesday.
But she said it has been a good three years in the Dayton administration and she pledged to continue working at full throttle for her remaining year.
“I found ways to use my skills,” she said, her eyes tearing up.
Prettner Solon said she will continue work on issues like she has in the past three years, such as those dealing with education and senior citizen matters.
In a year, when the new governor and lieutenant governor terms begin, Prettner Solon will head back home to Duluth, where she was a psychologist and from where she was elected state senator to replace her husband, Sam Solon, who died during his 31st year as senator.
The 67-year-old said she will leave state government in part because of family issues, saying her father died last year, her mother’s health is not good and she is a grandmother.
Prettner Solon would not rule out running for office again.
“There is always a new cause to be taken up,” she said.
Now, she added, she needs a break.
She said she had fielded requests that she serve on Minnesota-based corporate and other organizations’ boards; she would not say what organizations are courting her.
Prettner Solon’s announcement came as no surprise in the Capitol.
The buzz since summer has featured several names as her replacement, most prominently state Sen. Katie Sieben of Cottage Grove, Dayton Chief of Staff Tina Smith and Commissioner Tony Sertich of the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board. Dayton will pick his running mate, probably before May’s state Democratic convention in Duluth.
Dayton was meeting with President Barack Obama in Washington on Tuesday, but a spokesman said he would be available to answer questions Wednesday about a Prettner Solon successor.
Prettner Solon announced the decision Tuesday after a 40-minute late Monday afternoon meeting with Dayton. She said he was not surprised at her decision and did not ask her to stay on.
Connie Perpich of Hibbing, a long-time lobbyist, called Prettner Solon a “class act.”
“She’s a star,” Perpich said. “She’s a role model for women that is not surpassed.”
Prettner Solon said 25 years ago she felt a need to be involved. After several applications to serve on boards and commissions were rejected, she decided at the last minute to run for Duluth City Council.
“I was looking for a new challenge,” she explained, noting her children were grown and she had time and desire.
She confessed she was so nervous when filling out paperwork to run for council that it was illegible and she needed to ask for a new form. She easily won.
The day after her husband’s funeral, she was approached by people asking that she run to fill out his term. She did, and served nine years before Dayton picked her as his running mate in 2010.
She may not have been an obvious choice for Dayton because she had supported two other Democratic contenders for governor before they dropped out.
In a statement Dayton released Tuesday, he said throughout her public service tenure she “has been a courageous champion for the people of Minnesota.”
Dayton also pledged his support to continue her pet projects.
Several Republicans praised Prettner Solon, including former state Rep. Marty Seifert of Marshall, who is running for governor.
He stood outside the governor’s office right after Prettner Solon’s announcement, intertwining praise for her and taking jabs at Dayton.
“I talk to my lieutenant governor more than he does,” Seifert said about Dayton, “and I don’t have one.”
The rural Republican said Prettner Solon has been the voice of rural Minnesota, which he said the governor neglects.