ST. PAUL (WCCO) — Also sworn on Monday was Yvonne Prettner Solon as the new Lieutenant Governor. She has said she’ll be the voice for outstate Minnesota.
The last two lieutenant governors have not been very high profile. There was the former school teacher Mae Schunk who served under Gov. Jesse Ventura and then there was Carol Molnau who served under Gov. Tim Pawlenty and rarely made public appearances.
That is all about to change in Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon. Mark Dayton has a lieutenant governor who is expected to be a key player.
As she greeted well wishers after being sworn in on Monday, Prettner Solon said she knew many Minnesotans don’t know much about her.
That is not the case in her hometown of Duluth where she and her late husband, State Senator Sam Solon, are revered.
“The Solon name up North, particularly in Duluth, is like the Kennedy name in Massachusetts,” said Larry Jacobs of the Humphrey Institute.
Prettner Solon’s influence during the campaign was nowhere more evident than during the hard fought primary victory. The Dayton/Prettner Solon ticket narrowly beat Margaret Anderson Kelliher, largely on the overwhelming margin of victory in the Duluth area.
After that primary win, Dayton told reporters, “We have know all along that that was a great advantage that we had, that Yvonne has such a base of respect and support in Duluth.”
Prettner Solon is expected to be even more high profile because for the first time in recent memory Minnesota’s governor is single.
A First Lady often stands in for the governor, a role Prettner Solon said she plans to fill. She will also work to establish a senior citizen service center in the lieutenant governor’s office.
“The purpose of that would be to coordinate all senior services in one area so that it’s much easier for seniors to navigate when they’re looking for services that are either federal services or state services,” said Prettner Solon.
But her most important role may lie in her ability to work with the state legislature. As a veteran state senator, she is highly regarded by members of both parties.
“She comes in with a very strong, independent political base. She’s had quite a bit of effective experience in the legislature and she’s someone that the governor needs,” said Jacobs.
And in terms of dealing with the Republican legislature, Prettner Solon has another part of her background she can draw on she is a licensed psychologist.
Walter Mondale is widely viewed as having transformed the role of vice president and some expect Prettner Solon to transform the role of Minnesota’s Lt. Governor.
WCCO-TV’s Esme Murphy Reports