Herald JournalHerald Journal, Nov. 17, 2003

Kielkucki resigns, will start job of deputy secretary of state Nov. 25

By Ryan Gueningsman

State Rep. Tony Kielkucki announced last week that he will resign his position in the Minnesota House of Representatives to take the position of deputy secretary of state.

The resignation will go into effect Monday, Nov. 24, which means Gov. Tim Pawlenty will most likely have a special election to fill Kielkucki's position prior to the legislative session beginning in January.

In the near future, Gov. Tim Pawlenty will issue a proclamation which will outline the timetable. Kielkucki guesses that it could be on his resignation date that this will be announced.

There is usually an endorsing period, as well as a time to campaign. Kielkucki figures that sometime between Nov. 25 and before Feb. 2 this will take place.

"There have been several people expressing interest," Kielkucki said of his position. "I've gotten some calls about what it all entails."

Diving right in

"I'll be heading up the elections office for the secretary of state," Kielkucki said from his capitol office Thursday.

Kielkucki will spend about 40 percent of his time working with counties, cities, and townships on their elections, in addition to some office staff supervision.

Another 40 percent will be dealing with changing the election laws, watching and guiding changes through the legislature, he said.

The last 20 percent of his time will be used for representing the secretary of state's office throughout the state, conducting seminars, etc.

Because of the situation in Florida during the last presidential election, new election laws are being made on the federal level, and Kielkucki will be responsible for making sure Minnesota's laws are in conformity with the federal laws, he said.

He is set to begin his new position Tuesday, Nov. 25. He received his official appointment in the form of a letter from Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer after several weeks of discussions.

"She presented the letter to me in person," Kielkucki said. "I had to say 'yes' or 'no' after that was done. I ended up saying 'yes' and that's where we are at today."

Kielkucki plans on retaining his home outside of Lester Prairie, and commuting to work each day.

"The way I look at it is my wife Lavon is happy where she is at," he said. "She put up with my life for seven years, the crazy hours, and being down here, I certainly can put up with the commute."

One thing Kielkucki said he will have to give up will be something he has done for the past 24 years ­ coaching football for the Holy Trinity Trojans.

"It would be pretty difficult for me to continue coaching and have a regular job like this," he said. "I just don't see how that can work.

"I knew some of this stuff was going on because I was mulling some of this over in my mind. I couldn't say anything to anyone about it. That last football game was really tough, realizing that could be my last game ever.

"Lavon knew, so she came out onto the field and gave me a huge hug, and gave me a Rosary blessed by the pope to remember that day ­ it was a neat moment for me," he said.

Kielkucki is quick to give credit to Lavon for supporting and standing by him for the past seven years.

"Like a lot of things in my legislative career, if it wasn't for her, it would have been even tougher," he said. "I don't think everybody realizes how important it is to have a great, loving, supporting wife like she is going through something like this."

His legislative career

Kielkucki was elected in 1996, replacing Rep. Tony Onnen, who did not run. Kielkucki has early campaign ads stating his five principles:

1. I believe that you the people are the government.

2. I believe that protecting the right to life is the foundation of the freedom we all enjoy.

3. I believe that family is the cornerstone of our society. Family values must be protected and promoted.

4. I believe in "common sense" government ­ local control, workfare, tax reform, judicial reform and fiscal responsibility.

5. I believe in the people of District 20B.

"I think if you'll take a look at my voting record, and how I conducted myself, I think everybody will tell you that those principles were followed day in and day out.

"They are guiding rocks for my life. I'm really going to work hard to protect one of their sacred duties ­ the right to vote and the election process. I'll just be carrying out my principles in a little different way."

With his new job, there will be a salary increase. He will be receiving a full-time salary now. As a legislator, that position was considered part time.

Although his hours will be more consistent, it won't always be 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. either. During election time, there are a lot of questions that get called in by various government authorities. There could also be times that he will have to lobby the legislature.

His proudest and toughest moments

Kielkucki considers his proudest moments as a lawmaker as having the Profile of Learning repealed and when the Woman's Right to Know act was signed into law ­ he authored both bills.

"Removing the Profile finally gives teachers the opportunity to teach, while maintaining standards within Minnesota schools," he said. "The Woman's Right to Know act now requires doctors to provide information to women seeking an abortion at least 24 hours before performing the procedure."

His toughest moment in the legislature was when he was called a racist.

He was looking at a provision that would have made it necessary to provide photo identification at election polls.

"Somebody called me a racist because I proposed that," he said. "That was really hard on me ­ probably my toughest moment, one of my toughest days. That was the farthest thing from my mind. I didn't think it was that big of a deal, but I guess it was."

Other reactions

"He sure has been good to us," said Winsted Mayor Don Guggemos.

"He was an aggressive, successful, conservative legislator," said Minnesota State Senator Steve Dille. "He has the opportunity to take on a job which is challenging and more rewarding financially."

"Tony Kielkucki is a good friend and an outstanding legislator," said Gov. Tim Pawlenty in a statement to Herald Journal. "He is a strong and effective public servant and, although he'll be missed in the legislature, I'm sure he'll continue to serve his state in other ways."


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