By Starrla Cray
MEEKER, WRIGHT COUNTIES, MN When people hear the name “Steve Dille,” titles like state senator, Dassel Township supervisor, Meeker County commissioner, and Minnesota House representative might come to mind.
But, there’s another side of Dille that some people might not be as familiar with.
Former rodeo cowboy, farmer, husband, father, veterinarian, and aspiring writer are also accurate descriptions of this 64-year-old who lives north of Dassel.
Dille recently announced that he won’t be seeking reelection in November 2010, but he wouldn’t exactly call it “retirement.”
“I’ve been doing two full-time jobs for more than 30 years,” said Dille, who owns a 640-acre crop and livestock farm. “I figured, at my age, it’s time to cut back to just one full-time job.”
As Dille prepares to step out of public office next year, he’s also making plans to pursue other interests, including more time with family.
Dille’s wife, Pamela, is a media specialist at Dassel Elementary School. They have three sons and one daughter.
“My three sons are all engineers,” Dille said, adding that they’re all University of Minnesota graduates, too.
Nicholas, 32, is a civil engineer who flies a Black Hawk helicopter for the military. Mitchell is an aerospace engineer, and his identical twin brother, Spencer, is into computer engineering.
Dille also has three grandchildren, Lincoln, Amelia, and Isla.
Mitchell, who lives in Kansas, is interested in taking over the family farm someday.
Dille said he originally had two 700-acre farms, but cut back when he got into public office. Now, he has about 400 head of sheep, along with three horses and a border collie.
“I still like to ride horseback,” said Dille. About two miles of the Crow River run through his property.
“It’s kind of fun to go through the woods and admire nature,” he said.
Dille also enjoys riding horses at local parades. This past summer, he was in the Dassel and Litchfield parades. During campaign and election years, he typically rode in about 15 parades per summer.
At the end of Dille’s state senate term in 2010, it’ll be the first time in many years that he hasn’t been in public office.
“On average, Minnesota legislators serve for about 10 years,” Dille noted. “By the end of next year when my term ends, I will have had the honor and privilege of serving my constituents and the State of Minnesota at the capitol for 24 years.”
Before serving at the state level, Dille was involved in local politics, starting with his election to the Dassel Township board in 1977.
“The time I have spent in public office has been extremely fulfilling and has greatly enriched my life,” Dille noted.
Reflecting back on his service, Dille has several accomplishments that he is proud of, some of which have been controversial.
In 1994, he helped with a bill that allowed the Prairie Island nuclear power plant storage facilities to continue operations.
“That was a very controversial bill,” he said. “We had protesters from all over the United States. That was the only time I saw metal detectors at the state capitol.”
Dille was also the co-author at a conference committee for the 1837 land treaty case between the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe Indians and the state of Minnesota.
Feedlot regulation has been another part of Dille’s time in office.
“Almost all of the regulation in the past 20 years, I’ve had my hand in,” Dille said.
Dille is also one of the legislators who worked on the Freedom to Breathe Act, which restricts smoking in public places.
“I’m pleased to report that smoking is down to 17 percent among adults in Minnesota,” he said. “It’s been on a downward spiral for some time.”
Dille was one of four legislators to receive the Allina hospitals and clinics’ annual Legislator of the Year award in 2007 for helping protect people from secondhand smoke.
The seat-belt laws are another controversial issue that Dille supports.
“That’s not very popular in the countryside,” he said.
Family values are also important to Dille.
“As a Republican, I’m always looking for ways to strengthen families,” he said. “You can’t have less government unless you have strong families. Weak families need more government.”
One program he’s worked to implement is the pre-marriage class. Couples aren’t required to take it, but they get a $70 discount (from $110 to $40) on their marriage license fees if they comply.
“It emphasizes conflict management and communication skills,” Dille said. “The research shows that, for people who take the class, the divorce rate is cut by 50 percent, as measured by the five-year mark.”
In 2001, 24 percent of couples took the class. In 2008, it was up to 34 percent.
Dille has also worked to help educate young people in financial matters. Freshmen at the University of Minnesota and the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System are now required to take a personal financial management and investment course, he said.
Parents Forever is another program Dille has had a part in. Couples with minor children who want to get a divorce can be ordered by a judge to take eight hours of pre-divorce education.
Most couples aren’t thrilled about it when they start, Dille said, but “they’re darn happy they took it when they get done.”
More about Dille
When Dille leaves his state senate position, he said he hopes to write his memoirs.
“I was a rodeo cowboy from age 11 to 28,” he said.
Dille also spent three-and-a-half years as a civilian veterinary advisor in Vietnam during the Vietnam War.
“I was near enemy fire about a dozen times,” he said.
Dille can be reached at the capitol at (651) 296-4131 or firstname.lastname@example.org.