Baird Helgeson and Rachel E. Stassen-Berger
DFL state Sen. Linda Berglin announced Monday that she will leave the Legislature on Aug. 15 to begin her new job with Hennepin County.
The new job "excites me because it will give me the opportunity to improve outcomes for many of the people I have served in the Legislature," Berglin said at a Capitol news conference.
Berglin said one of her top achievements was the creation of MinnesotaCare, a state-backed hea
lth care program for low-income Minnesotans. She was also the first woman to chair a full committee in Minnesota history.
But Berglin's announcement came tinged with unhappiness about serving in the minority. After Democrats lost control of the Senate last November, Berglin was forced to the back bench after years establishing herself as a leading force in the health care arena. She lost her chairmanship of the powerful health and human services committee and then was passed over for a post with DFL Gov. Mark Dayton's administration.
"During the last six months, I have felt that my talents and skills have been underutilized," said Berglin, who lives in south Minneapolis and has served the Legislature since 1972. "As I see so much of what I have worked on over the years being chipped away or repealed entirely, I worry that our state is moving away from the community spirit that has made us such a great place."
Then last week, she was asked to leave a meeting to finalize the health and human services budget.
Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk said: "The governor's office called and said '[Senate Majority Leader] Amy Koch wants you out of the room,'" he recalled. "Linda doesn't know why. But she's incredibly knowledgeable."
She said after the announcement that being chair of the Senate health and human services committee didn't allow her to think of taking another job. But once Democrats lost the minority, she had time to look for another position.
"She is clearly one of the most outstanding legislators of the last 50 or 100 years," state Sen. Larry Pogemiller, DFL-Minneapolis.
Pogemiller worked closely with Berlin when he served as senate majority leader until last year when Democrats lost control of the Senate.
"Year after year, she protected the most vulnerable," he said. "When she approaches the pearly gates, that will be a quick entry because she protected those most in need in our society."