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House 18B: Urdahl says there's no quit in him

GROVE CITY -- It was a long, arduous process to create and fund the new Greenleaf Recreational Area in Meeker County, but Rep. Dean Urdahl doesn't see himself as a quitter.

"I battled and battled to get that," the Grove City Republican says. "That's what you've got to do if you think something is important. You've got to keep fighting for it."

Urdahl says he'll continue this tenacity in St. Paul if he wins re-election to the Minnesota House in District 18B. First elected to the House in 2002, he is seeking his fifth term.

The mostly rural district covers most of Meeker County and western portions of neighboring Wright County.

A seasoned legislator, he's the lead Republican on the House Transportation and Transit Policy and Oversight Division Committee.

He also sits on the Agriculture, Rural Economies and Veterans Affairs Committee.

He is also on the committees for the Capital Investment Finance Division and the Cultural and Outdoor Resources Finance Division.

Urdahl said he's running for re-election because he still has goals he wants to accomplish.

"I have plans. I have ideas that I intend to bring forward," he said.

As co-chairman of a legislative bipartisan redesign caucus, he's in line to become one of the key players in developing a more efficient and effective state government for Minnesota's future. The redesign process is expected to be one of the major issues facing state government, addressing important functions ranging from spending and taxation to the overall size of government.

"Redesign has got to be more than just a catchphrase," Urdahl said. "I don't think we can continue to sustain state government the way we're operating now."

A similar process could help the state's education system operate more effectively, he said.

Urdahl, who taught social studies and history for many years before retiring, has the endorsement of Education Minnesota, the state's largest teacher union. He says he supports education and is in favor of maintaining a sustainable school funding formula.

There's room, however, for schools to find new and different ways of doing business, Urdahl said. Trips to Finland and more recently to Kenya provided a perspective on how other education systems operate, he said. "We can learn some things from Finland regarding their system. ... I think we have to be open to change."

Urdahl's business agenda focuses on making regulations, permitting processes and taxes less burdensome on businesses. During the 2010 session he was the chief author of a successful bill allowing state workers to share their hours, a move that helped avoid employee layoffs.

As a member of the bipartisan small business caucus, he also helped pass an initiative to support entrepreneurship, foster capital for small businesses and promote innovation in technology development and manufacturing. His track record led to a Guardian of Small Business award by the National Federation of Independent Business.

One of the hallmarks for which Urdahl is known is his work on legislation involving water resources. He and Sen. Steve Dille of District 18 were instrumental in establishing the Greenleaf Recreational Area, one of the last remaining tracts of lakeshore and native hardwoods in southern Minnesota. Urdahl also has worked with several municipalities to obtain funding for wastewater and clean water projects.

Colleagues in the Legislature would likely describe him "as someone who works well with both sides, who is articulate and knowledgeable in presenting ideas. And I'm persistent. I'm very persistent. That might be one of the main things I'm known for," Urdahl said.

Urdahl said he listens to constituents and wants to hear their ideas and concerns.

"I take my title of representative very seriously," he said. "I will continue to be a voice for the people I represent."

Anne Polta

Anne Polta covers health care, business/economic development and general assignment. Her HealthBeat blog can be found at Follow her on Twitter at @AnnePolta.

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