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Seifert’s farewell speech to the Minnesota House: ‘We need to learn about each other’

The following is a transcription of Rep. Marty Seifert’s farewell address to the Minnesota House. In it, he says on his website, “I tried to not talk about politics, bills, amendments, roll calls or issues that divide Minnesotans. Rather, I wanted to just visit with my colleagues and the people of Minnesota about the special people in my life and the need to move forward as a father and citizen.” A video of the speech is here.

Thank you Madam Speaker. Madame Speaker, I have nothing fancy to say.

I want to thank my wife, my kids. I want to thank Shirley (his longtime legislative assistant); you know, to show how loyal she is, she’s been sitting by these dead flowers for an hour and a half. (laughter) And don’t turn on the water works or I’m not gonna make through this thing.

I want to thank the people of Lyon and Redwood Counties for allowing me to be here. And the staff: nonpartisan, partisan, those who make us look so good on both sides of the isle. Al (Mathiowetz; the Chief Clerk of the House who grew up in the same town as Seifert), we went to Morgan High School, we went to St. Michael’s, we had eight years of education beaten into us; not by the same nuns. (laughter) But, who says smart kids don’t come from small towns?

And the House GOP Caucus for allowing me to lead you for three years.

I think all of us in this room — I think a lot of you know I like stories. And I can look around the room and I can tell a little story about everybody in the room. Maybe I saw you in the hallway or in a committee or in the bathroom or somewhere in the backroom or whatever, and I can tell a little story about every single person in here on both sides of the aisle; maybe I just talked to you for a minute or two. And I think it’s important for all of us to do that. We don’t do it. I’m surprised at the number of people who don’t take the time to meet the human beings in this room — all fantastic people.

So we gotta to do that. We gotta get to know our people. Did you know (Rep.) Mary Murphy babysat (Rep.) Dan Severson when he was a little tiny baby? And Mary said it was the cutest baby you ever babysat. Mary you told me that. A lot of people don’t know those things.

And we need to learn about each other.

We need to take the opportunities given to us in the Chamber. When Representative (Jeff) Hayden (DFL-Minneapolis) invited me to come to the Sabathani Community Center, an old lady said, “I’ve worked here since 1976 and I’ve never seen a Republican in this building.” You could have brought a giraffe in there — they’ve never seen one of those in there either before. (laughter) But what honor it was to listen to concerns people had that I hadn’t had the opportunity to ever learn before.

We need to learn about each other. And I think we do know little things about everybody in the room. Who wears orange all the time? (laughter) You know, Representative (Kate) Knuth. I mean we all know these little things about each other, and I take that with me as I leave this body.

I’ve got some recommendations. One is that if you don’t want to miss a vote, and you need 20 to 30 minutes, just wait until Representative (Torrey) Westrom starts putting his jacket on and that’ll buy you about 15-20. (laughter) And so that’s a lesson, I think, for those of you who have things to do, that’ll buy you some time. (Rep. Westrom is known for giving very long speeches).

One thing, seriously, that I would like members on both sides to take a look at is something I did when I had the honor of chairing a committee. And that is regardless of seniority, regardless of party, regardless if you like the person or not, whether you know them or not, that every single member get a hearing on their bill and a fair vote. And it was sad when I learned I was one of the few Chairmen that did that. And if you don’t have time, make time. And I didn’t care if it was (then state Rep., now U.S. Rep.) Keith Ellison who needed a hearing on a bill or if it was a senior Republican. And it’s not something, members we should have to put in the Rules to force us to do it; we should do it because it’s the right thing.

It’s interesting, some of the stories that we like to tell. On a Friday night, it was particularly late and my wife told my son, “Dad’s coming home tonight,” and put him to bed. He climbed out of bed and was sleeping on the floor — by the garage door — at midnight, waiting for me. A 3-year-old. There’s not a lot of people who know how that feels week after week.

The other thing I want to send appreciation to is the human side of everyone in this room. When my dad died, the first memorial I got for a little dedication at FarmFest — there was a little card attached, from Minneapolis, Minnesota — I still have it: “Marty, our thoughts and prayers are with you on the death of your father. Signed: Margaret Anderson Kelliher.” It was the first card that I got. Neither one of us held any position of authority other than being rank and file members of the House.

I had to put a positive spin on my loss when I ran for governor to my daughter. She’s smart for her age. So the positive spin I put on it was, “Brittany I lasted one ballot longer than Leslie Davis.” (laughter and applause). It gets better. She said, “Daddy, that guy doesn’t even drive a car.” So I tried to put a positive spin on it, but she’s too smart, even at her age of 7 to know better.

The day of the state convention, Braxton had a big scrape on his nose. And we were getting ready to go on stage and a reporter asked, and you remember this (Rep.) Mary (Kiffmeyer), the reporter asked, “What happened to your nose — this huge gash?”

He said, “I fell off my bike last week and daddy was not there to catch me.”

I’ve had a great time at this House located at 100 Martin Luther King Boulevard. But the house where I belong is on East Lyon Street in Marshall, Minnesota.

Thank you, God bless you, and may God bless the great state of Minnesota.

Minority Leader Marty Seifert, R-Marshall, retired this month from the Minnesota House of Representatives. He was first elected in 1996. Seifert delivered this speech on May 16.

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Comments (2)

  1. Submitted by John Olson on 05/27/2010 - 12:57 pm.

    Wonderful comments.

    The tragedy, of course, is that most politicians forget that they are irrevocably human until they reach the end of their political career.

  2. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 05/27/2010 - 11:12 pm.

    Dear Rep Seifert,

    Considering where you call home, I’d suggest that if you were to give that same speech at your local precinct caucus or county convention, it’s likely you’d get booed off the stage.

    Perhaps you’ll want to research why that is and what might be done to help bring your beloved Republican party back from the wilderness into which it has so stubbornly and willfully wandered.

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