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Senate GOP picks Sviggum for key job

ST. PAUL -- One of Minnesota's most veteran politicians becomes a top state Senate staff member today.

Former House Speaker Steve Sviggum will serve as executive assistant and communications director for the majority caucus.

Majority Leader Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, said the Republican Kenyon farmer and teacher "served with credibility and honor for many years."

Sviggum said Senate Republicans, in control for the first time in nearly four decades, are doing a good job.

"They have helped take Minnesota from an over $5 billion budget deficit to a significant surplus," Sviggum said, adding that the new job "is an exciting opportunity."

Sviggum took House Republicans from minority to majority status in the 1998 election, and served as speaker eight years until Democratic-Farmer-Laborites regained control.

He resigned after a session in the minority, and served in two commissioner posts for GOP Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

He was elected to the state House in 1978, serving as minority leader from 1993 until Republicans took control.

Sviggum takes a job formerly held by Michael Brodkorb, who lost his post last month when then-Majority Leader Amy Koch, R-Buffalo, resigned after fellow senators confronted her with allegations she had "inappropriate relations" with a Senate employee she supervised.

After Koch resigned as leader, Senate Republicans narrowly elected Senjem to replace her.

He was minority leader four years, and helped Republicans take control of the Senate.

Sviggum is in his first term as a University of Minnesota regent. Soon after legislators elected him to the position, his work with a department of the university was challenged and he resigned as an employee, but stayed on as a regent.

He will continue in that position while working for Senate Republicans.

He has considered several political offices, including running for governor or Congress.

"His experience and leadership is unparalleled, and he will be an invaluable asset to the Minnesota Senate Republican Caucus," Senjem said. "This unique opportunity gives us the ability to capitalize on Steve's experience, knowledge of the press, successful decision-making skills and relationships he has created over many years of service."

Sviggum begins his new job today, a week before legislators start their 2012 session.

Davis works for Forum Communications Co., which owns the Daily Globe.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.