The following are the full remarks delivered today by Lt. Governor Yvonne Prettner Solon at a morning news conference at the Minnesota State Capitol. After more than 25 years of dedicated service to the people of Minnesota, Lt. Governor Yvonne Prettner Solon has announced she will not seek reelection in 2014. During her time as Lt. Governor, Prettner Solon has distinguished herself as a passionate advocate for Minnesota seniors and Greater Minnesota – and she plans to continue that important work throughout the coming year.
Twenty-five years ago – in the late 1980s – my children were grown and my psychology practice was well-established. But I was looking for a new challenge; I was interested in finding new ways to give back to my community, and contribute meaningfully to making my city an even better place to live.
At the time, I thought I might like to be appointed to a board or commission. So, I submitted my name for a number of city, county and state boards. But I wasn’t appointed to any of them.
Around that same time, an opening became available for an at-large seat on the Duluth City Council. I thought, “I have some things I would like to say about City government. I think I will run for the Council seat and, when it is all over and done with, maybe someone will remember who I am and appoint me to a board or commission.”
I made the decision to run at the last minute, and I ended up filing on the very last day – just ten minutes before the office was set to close. I was so nervous and shaking so badly that I couldn’t fill out the form legibly and I had to ask for another one. But, I was committed to working as hard as I could to win the seat.
To my surprise, my campaign took off – it resonated with people, and I went on to win by a substantial margin. I was honored to serve on the Duluth City Council for twelve years, and during that time served in a number of leadership roles, including three times as council vice-president, twice as president, and eight years as deputy mayor – and I have never wanted for an appointment to a board or commission since.
In 1999 – an election year – I was diagnosed with breast cancer, and I decided to step aside and take care of my health, rather than run for a fourth term four-year on the City Council. Then, as I finished my own treatments and was regaining my energy, my husband (then-State Senator Sam Solon) was diagnosed with malignant melanoma. He died 10 months later. That was the saddest day of my life.
The day after Sam’s funeral, a group of friends and colleagues came to my house and persuaded me to run for his seat in the Minnesota Senate – a seat he had held for 31 years. I was filled with grief, but I thought it would be a way to keep myself focused and to honor his legacy by completing the last year of his term in the Senate.
So, I made the decision to run, and I won the seat, joining the Minnesota Senate – representing Duluth – in January 2002. I went on to win two more four-year terms, spending a total of nine years in the Senate.
Then, nearly four years ago, Mark Dayton asked me to join him on the campaign trail to the Governor’s Office. With some sadness about leaving the Senate, I agreed to take on this new challenge.
Looking back, it is amazing to me that one last-minute decision 25 years ago has led me down the path of so many outstanding experiences in public service, and ultimately presented me the opportunity to serve as Minnesota’s Lieutenant Governor. My pen is a bit steadier today than it was 25 years ago, but my resolve to make my community – and our state – a better place, has never lessened.
Throughout my careers – both as a psychologist and as a public servant – I have been interested in helping solve the problems facing our state. And while the issues have changed over the years, I have continued to work on initiatives that aim to provide real value for Minnesotans, reforms that will have an impact on people’s lives, and innovations that further the public good.
On the City Council, I worked to lay the groundwork for a better Duluth – helping carve the path for the economic revitalization that the city is now experiencing, with new developments, new businesses, new jobs, new growth, and new energy.
In the State Senate, I worked to build on Minnesota’s nation-leading stature in health care delivery and innovation, helped establish the nation’s foremost green energy policies, and advocated for those less fortunate in our society.
Over the past three years in this office, it has been a great privilege – and my distinct honor – to serve the people of Minnesota as our state’s 47th Lt. Governor. I am proud of the many important achievements we have made to build a better Minnesota, and I have no plans to slow down or scale back that work in the year ahead.
Above all, as Lt. Governor, my work on behalf of Minnesota’s aging population has been rewarding and productive. When our elder population stays engaged, and active in their communities, they live longer, healthier, and happier lives. That creates a win-win-win situation for our seniors, our communities, and our state’s health care system. This administration has accomplished nation-leading, transformative work to empower and improve the quality of life enjoyed by Minnesota seniors. I look forward to building on that important progress in 2014.
I also look forward to continuing my efforts to improve the quality of life enjoyed by Minnesotans with disabilities by implementing the state’s new Olmstead Plan. And I look forward to continuing my work in coordination with the Center for German and European Studies at the University of Minnesota to expand on the benefits of past international policy exchanges, and building relationships between Minnesotan and German policymakers on issues related to energy and health care.
Knowing now the full responsibilities, and the endless possibilities, of this high office – I can say now with confidence that the highest calling in a democratic society is the call to public service.
The scriptures tell us that, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all, and serve all” [Mark, 9:35]. I have applied that simple truth to my service at the local and state levels over the past 25 years – and I know it to be true.
We are not elected to serve our own selfish interests, nor special interests, nor political interests. Instead, the Governor and I, and the 201 legislators from across the state who serve in this magnificent building, were chosen by their communities to serve first and always the public’s interests. Working each day with humility, despite our differences, we as Minnesotans fulfill the stubborn belief that this small group of committed individuals – with varied beliefs and interests – can come together in common cause to build a Better Minnesota.
And, like those who came before us, I believe we have.
In this generation, we can still draw wisdom from those who served ahead of us. Circling the Senate chamber are the words of a man whom many consider one of history’s most accomplished legislators, U.S. Senator Daniel Webster. His words read, and I quote:
“Let us develop the resources of our land, call forth its powers, build up its institutions, promote all its great interests, and see whether we also, in our day and generation, may not perform something worthy to be remembered.”
That has been my calling these past 25 years; that has been my charge. And it is a charge I believe I have fulfilled. There is always more work to be done; always a new cause to be taken up; always someone in need of a servant leader armed with courage and compassion.
We are fortunate, in Minnesota, to have so many good and qualified leaders standing ready to answer that call to service. So today, I have made the decision, after more than two decades of service in public office, to step aside and let someone else take the reins of the work that lay ahead. I plan to finish my first term as Lt. Governor, and return to Duluth in January 2015. This is a decision I have given much thought, much reflection, and an equal dose of prayer – a decision I am confident is right for me, my loved ones, and my future.
A good life rests on the balance we make between our work, our families, and our own personal self-fulfillment. And today, that desire for balance is calling me home. For three years, I have made it my mission to help Minnesota’s aging population prepare for, and own, their futures. I plan now, in the next phase of my life, to benefit from the wisdom of my own advice.
For more than 50 years, the North Shore of Lake Superior has been my home. And each day when the sun sets over the lake’s bowing horizon, from my home on Park Point, I can see the day’s last light dancing across the rolling waves, giving way to starry nights. Each morning, a new day casts its gaze across the waters and brings with it new choices, and new possibilities.
So as the sun sets on my term as Lt. Governor next year, I hope first and foremost, that the good work we have done these four years to build a Better Minnesota, will ripple all across this state, and shine in the hearts of all those we served. And when the sun rises on a new day, I know the next chapter of my life will bring with it more opportunities to serve, more ways to give back, and more chances to make a difference in the lives of Minnesotans.
Until then, I have more work to do here in St. Paul. And I plan to do that work with the same commitment and vigor I have given to the cause of public service these last many years.
I thank Governor Dayton for presenting me with this opportunity to serve, and I thank my staff for their tremendous efforts to help me in my efforts to build a better Minnesota. But above all, I thank Minnesotans – from the bottom of my heart – for giving me this unequivocal chance to improve the prospects of our shared future, and make our state a better place for all those who come after us. For that, I will be eternally grateful.
With that, I would be glad to take any questions.