Lt. Gov. Prettner Solon vows to watch nonmetro Minnesota issues

ST. PAUL -- Yvonne Prettner Solon is walking into the lieutenant governor's office as a nonmetro Minnesota advocate. The Duluth resident, who gave up a state senator gig to be Mark Dayton's running mate, told about 600 people at St. Paul's Landma...

Prettner Solon sworn in
Yvonne Prettner Solon (right) of Duluth takes the oath of office of Minnesota lieutenant governor from Supreme Court Chief Judge Donovan W. Frank on Monday as members of her family participated in St. Paul. (Jim Mone / Associated Press)

ST. PAUL -- Yvonne Prettner Solon is walking into the lieutenant governor's office as a nonmetro Minnesota advocate.

The Duluth resident, who gave up a state senator gig to be Mark Dayton's running mate, told about 600 people at St. Paul's Landmark Center that she knew "there were no easy solutions to the challenges we are facing."

But she said that the Dayton-Prettner Solon election is "a new page," presenting an opportunity to work together, as Dayton often encouraged in his 14-minute speech after the pair took office Monday.

"We extend a hand to all of you across the aisle, across the river, across the state," Prettner Solon said.

After saying she spent a dozen years on the Duluth City Council, Prettner Solon admitted to the crowd, and a statewide radio and Internet audience: "I am passionate about Duluth."


But, she quickly added, it is not just Duluth. "A decade ago I brought my passion for Duluth and all of greater Minnesota here to the state Capitol."

It was one of the few mentions of specific areas of the state during the hourlong inaugural ceremony. Dayton used Prettner Solon in areas outside of the Twin Cities during the campaign, especially in the northeast.

President Doug Peterson of the National Farmers' Union Minnesota chapter was thinking about rural Minnesota during Dayton's speech.

"I heard there are going to be painful decisions going to be made," Peterson said.

To Peterson, that means Dayton will look for more funds for education, health and transportation programs, all vital to rural Minnesota.

6th-grader wows

Dayton and fellow office-holders certainly received applause during Monday's inaugural, but a Buffalo Lake sixth-grader electrified the crowd.

After McKaia Ryberg finished her touching and powerful rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner," Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, expressed the common reaction: "Wow."


Ryberg, a Bird Island St. Mary's Elementary School student, also sang the national anthem when President Obama campaigned for Dayton in October.

She and her parents, Brian and Sandy Ryberg, farm near Buffalo Lake.

Dayton's office contacted the 11-year-old and her family during the week before Christmas to ask if she would do the inaugural honors. Dayton discovered Ryberg when she sang the national anthem for a benefit he attended more than a year ago.

Officials again

Attorney General Lori Swanson, State Auditor Rebecca Otto and Secretary of State Mark Ritchie took their oaths of office for second four-year terms Monday.

All are Democrats.

Swanson and outgoing Gov. Tim Pawlenty often are on different sides of issues, but she praised the probable Republican presidential candidate for his service to Minnesota.

"No matter what path you choose, I thank you for your service to our state," Swanson told Pawlenty, who sat in the second row and played no part in Mark Dayton's inaugural.


Earlier, Pawlenty received a standing ovation from the Democrat-heavy crowd.

Otto, whose job is to make sure local government books are accurate, gave the audience what could be a campaign slogan: "Numbers are really important."

Ritchie talked about the writing of the state Constitution, which occurred near the Landmark Center, where the inaugural was held.

"They did not allow partisan divisions along the way," he said, an obvious reference to liberal Dayton and conservative Republicans who will control the Legislature beginning today.

In the spirit

An announcement before the swearing-in ceremony illustrated Dayton's efforts to work with legislative Republicans. He delayed until Wednesday signing a document to enroll Minnesota in a new federal Medicaid health program for the poor because Republicans oppose the action.

Dayton Chief of Staff Tina Smith said the change came because of a personal request by House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, so it does not happen on the day the GOP takes over legislative control.

"Gov. Dayton is proud to make this order one of his first actions in office, providing health care to tens of thousands of Minnesotans and retaining health-care jobs in our state," Smith said.

Don Davis reports for Forum Communications Co., which owns the News Tribune.

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