Rep. Steve Sviggum, R-Kenyon, won't be everyone's cup of tea when it's time for him to be confirmed by lawmakers as state commissioner of labor and industry, but his breadth of experience and genial personality should make him a shoo-in choice.
Appointing former lawmakers to administrative posts is a popular ploy of governors who figure legislators will be unlikely to reject a person they've worked with for years. Sviggum, 55, a farmer and former math teacher and high school basketball referee, brings nearly 30 years of legislative experience to the table. No other House speaker in recent memory has worked as hard to connect with outstate media or to make his case for the Republican agenda. Sviggum was a frequent GOP spokesman on Minnesota Public radio broadcasts, always managing to keep his sense of humor while jousting with his DFL adversaries.
Sviggum served as House minority leader for six years and was speaker for eight years. A team player as speaker, he deferred to Gov. Tim Pawlenty's 2005 decision to not raise taxes even though he told the Brainerd Dispatch at that time he would personally support a dedicated tax hike of up to five cents a gallon. Once he stepped down from his leadership post this year he championed Republican causes but wasn't afraid to veer off course - most notably in his support of a bill that would have allowed the use of medical marijuana.
Look for the longtime lawmaker to be confirmed easily the Legislature addresses that issue.
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