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Dayton names former House Majority Leader Tony Sertich to Iron Range board

Rep. Tony Sertich,  considered a rising star in the DFL and a likely successor to former U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar, is moving out of the Minnesota House to become commissioner of the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board (IRRRB).

Gov. Mark Dayton announced Sertich’s appointment this morning with the usual sort of news release praise: “I have great confidence that Rep. Sertich will be an outstanding commissioner of the IRRRB and will provide the strong leadership that the agency needs to fulfill its important mission to the people on the Range.”

Sertich, in accepting the appointment, will resign his seat in the House and take a big step out of the public eye. A special election will be held Feb. 15 to replace Sertich, who resides in Chisolm, which remains a DFL stronghold. 

The new position means Sertich, who is just 35 years old, will be taking a step out of the public eye, at least in areas outside the Iron Range.

Of course, Minnesota voters in November diminished Sertich’s public presence. When voters put Republicans in the majority in the House, Sertich lost his high-profile position as majority leader. He opted not to run for House minority leader, a position now held by Rep. Paul Thissen of Minneapolis.

When Republican Chip Cravaack stunned pundits by defeating Oberstar in the 8th Congressional District race, it meant that Sertich would not be Oberstar’s immediate successor.

Despite his political skills — he is an excellent speaker and has an ability to move to the middle on many positions — Sertich always downplayed the idea that he would someday be Oberstar’s successor. Recently married, he said the idea of spending much of his life on an airplane between Washington, D.C., and his home district was not appealing.

But denial of interest in running for Congress didn’t stop DFL insiders from promoting the idea that Sertich would be the ideal person to attempt to win the 8th District back from the Republicans.

His new job doesn’t necessarily mean that Sertich’s political career is over. In the Iron Range, the IRRRB, which has been around since 1941, still plays a role in passing out development funds created from taxes on taconite and other natural resources from the region. Under Dayton, who owes much of his political success to the Iron Range, efforts to stimulate the Range economy are expected to be much greater than under Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

Sertich made reference to Dayton’s Iron Range loyalties in his statement regarding the appointment.

“Both Gov. Dayton and I are dedicated to seeing the Iron Range continue to adapt and evolve economically as we move deeper into the 21st century,” Sertich said. “As a fourth generation Ranger, there is nothing more important to me than seeing my home region’s economy strengthened and that it provide more opportunities now and for future generations.”

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