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Reps.-elect Dave Baker and Tim Miller gear up for the legislative session

Rep. Dave Baker (R-17b) was elected assistant majority leader and was appointed vice-chairman of the jobs growth and energy affordability policy and finance committee. (FORUM NEWS SERVICE/File)

WILLMAR — Between managing life on the home front, running to St. Paul to find a place to live and meet with GOP leadership and holding numerous meetings with local organizations and constituents, Reps.-elect Dave Baker and Tim Miller don’t have much time to spare.

And it’s about to get busier.

As freshmen GOP lawmakers who defeated DFL incumbents this fall, Baker, of Willmar, and Miller, of Prinsburg, are just getting a taste of their new lives that will hit hyper-drive when the 2015 legislative session begins Jan. 6.

Baker and Miller said they’re ready. “I want to get down there and get busy,” said Baker, who will represent District 17B, which includes nearly all of Kandiyohi County.

“I’m going to take advantage of every minute I’m down there and not forget where I came from,” he said. “I’m prepared.”

Baker will have no trouble filling the time.

He was elected by his peers as assistant majority leader and was appointed vice-chairman of the jobs growth and energy affordability policy and finance committee. Those are big jobs for a freshman, but Baker said he’s already lobbying for the jobs committee to hold a hearing next year in Willmar.

Baker will also serve on the health and human services reform committee and the newly-created aging and long-term care committee.

“I’m super excited about my committees,” he said, adding that job growth, caring for senior citizens and controlling health care costs are priority issues for the state.

Since the November election when he defeated Mary Sawatzky, of Willmar, who had been seeking her second term in the House, Baker has been hearing about a wide range of additional concerns from constituents such as mental health, transportation and school districts that want to keep their four-day education schedule.

“I’m meeting folks three to four times a day from different groups,” he said.

Baker intends to use that community input and his experience as a business owner, including running The Oaks restaurant, to help shape legislation.

But while he’s in St. Paul doing that, he’ll rely on “good staff” and a supportive family, including his wife, Mary, to keep Baker Hospitality operating.

Having less time to run his business will be difficult, “but it’s what I signed up for when I ran for this office,” Baker said.

His staff and family “want me to succeed” as a legislator and to “give it the time that’s needed.”

But Baker said politics should not be a career. He intends to “work really hard” while he’s there but being a business owner is his career.

“I’m so grateful for this cool opportunity I have to be part of Minnesota history,” Baker said.

Miller, meanwhile, will be re-tooling his career while he begins his new role as a legislator.

Miller said he had an agreement with his employer, Habitat for Humanity of West Central Minnesota, that if he won the election that he would resign his position because the job requires a full-time presence.

Since defeating DFLer Andrew Falk, of Murdock, Miller has been traveling throughout District 17A to hear from constituents.

“It’s been a whirlwind,” Miller said. “There have been lots of meetings, of course. People want to talk to me.”

Miller was appointed to serve on the agriculture finance committee, the Greater Minnesota economic and workforce development policy committee, the aging and long term care committee and the legacy funding finance committee.

“I’m excited for getting on the ground and legislating for the people in my district,” Miller said. “I can’t wait for that.”

While he knows he’s not aware of everything “that’s going to hit me” when he goes to St. Paul, Miller said he’s ready to take on the role of being a legislator.

“It’s an honor. It’s humbling,” he said.

As for the job hunt, Miller said he will likely return to consulting for non-profit or for-profit entities. “I’m confident God will provide,” he said.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.
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