U.S Rep. Rick Nolan has hired former state Rep. Tom Rukavina to serve as his Iron Range liaison.
Rukavina will work "closely with Congressman Nolan across the Iron Range on a wide range of issues relating to mining, timber, tourism, education and overall economic development," said Nolan spokesman Steve Johnson.
Nolan's office will make a formal announcement on Rukavina's role this week, Johnson said.
A DFLer from Virginia, Rukavina retired from the state legislature in 2012 after 26 years, citing partisan divide among lawmakers as the reason for his departure. Rukavina was known as a fierce defender of the Iron Range who riled Republicans and sometimes chastised his DFL colleagues with his "combative style and quick wit in House proceedings." He also made a failed bid for governor in 2010.
Until last month, Rukavina had served as chairman of the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board, an economic development agency in northern Minnesota.
"No one knows the Iron Range better and we are really excited to have him on the team," Johnson said.
Nolan has credited Rukavina and Jeff Anderson, a native Iron Ranger and former Duluth City Council member, for the strong support he received from Iron Range voters in November, when he defeated first-term Republican U.S. Rep. Chip Cravaack. Nolan hired Anderson in December to oversee his district offices in Duluth and Brainerd.
Rukavina initially endorsed Anderson, who was one of Nolan's opponents in the August primary.
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"I missed it, to be honest with you. I just missed being able to work a room and I missed being with people," said Rukavina, 63, one of three candidates vying for a nonpartisan seat on the St. Louis County Board.