District 16 candidates are familiar with Minn. Legislature Residents in Minnesota Senate District 16 will choose this fall between a Republican elected to the Senate two years ago and a retired superintendent who is a former DFL legislator. Gary ...

District 16 candidates are familiar with Minn. Legislature

Residents in Minnesota Senate District 16 will choose this fall between a Republican elected to the Senate two years ago and a retired superintendent who is a former DFL legislator.

Gary Dahms of Redwood Falls was elected to the Senate in the former District 21 two years ago. Ted L. Suss of rural Lucan served in the Minnesota House in the 1970s and now lives in rural Lucan.

Lines for District 16 were drawn in the state's redistricting effort earlier this year. The district includes all of Lac qui Parle, Yellow Medicine and Brown counties, two townships in Renville County, all but three townships in Redwood County, and all but eight townships in Lyon County.

The new District 16 includes some new territory to the north and west, but the people and issues are similar to his old district, Dahms said in a telephone interview.


Suss said the political landscape has changed considerably by adding some areas on the north that lean more Democratic.

People in the district talk to him about economic issues, Dahms said. "Jobs in rural Minnesota is certainly our number one priority," he said. "It's not only a place to work; it's a way of life."

The area needs to attract new businesses and keep the ones that are already here, Dahms said. That can help the entire state, he added.

"If we can create jobs and grow jobs, we grow income," he said. "When we grow revenue for the state, it allows us to do the things we need to do."

To do that, an education system that helps students prepare for post-secondary education and also for employment in trades is important, he said. School boards need to have the flexibility to organize their budgets without unnecessary state mandates, he said.

Transportation is another major issue for the area, Dahms said. All areas of the state are looking for funding to maintain and improve their roads, he said, and "it's a constant battle to get our fair share of the money."

Transportation is just one of several areas where Dahms said he sees inequities in funding between metropolitan and rural areas. Similar situations exist in funding for education and nursing homes.

Dahms and Suss both talked about needing legislators to work together in a bipartisan manner.


Dahms said most of the legislation he's worked on has had DFL co-sponsors.

"The biggest single thing I hear (when campaigning) is complete disgust with the gridlock at both the state and federal levels," Suss said in a telephone interview.

Suss said he decided to run for office because "I've got a lot of experience running a school district and changing organizational culture."

When he served in the 1970s, he said, Democrats and Republicans would argue about how to achieve goals, but they usually had a common set of goals. "We need to get back to that," he said.

Suss listed education as an important issue to him, as Dahms did. Suss said he believed businesses, lawmakers and schools must work together to solve the state's budget problems.

"That needs to be done as a package," he said. He would ask everyone to sit down at a table and say, "We're here to solve a problem, not win a war."

Suss said he believes the state has to do something to increase revenue and increase the fairness of the tax system. One step could be to extend sales taxes to Internet sales or to clothing sales but not to food. Another could be to even out the percentage of income paid in state and local taxes between upper income and middle income taxpayers.

Both Dahms and Suss said they feel they have the experience needed to be a good legislator.


Dahms points to his experience as a county commissioner and business owner who knows how to make payroll and meet a budget.

Suss said he believed his years as a superintendent and his legislative experience would help him be able to work with people of both parties.

Name: Gary Dahms

Age: 65

Family: Married, two children, two grandchildren

Career: Owned and operated Dahms Insurance Agency in Redwood Falls for 25 years.

Civic experience: Redwood County commissioner; served on several boards, commissions and foundations in areas of agriculture, education, soil and water, human services and economic development; co-chair of the Minnesota Agriculture Education Leadership Council

Name: Ted L. Suss

Age: 62

Family: Three grown sons

Career: Superintendent in Hendricks-Ivanhoe and Wabasso schools; former executive director of state board of education

Civic experience: Jordan School Board member; Scott-Hennepin County Park Board; served on numerous boards, commissions and foundations related to history, education, health and theater

In 42 years in the newspaper industry, Linda Vanderwerf has worked at several daily newspapers in Minnesota, including the Mesabi Daily News, now called the Mesabi Tribune in Virginia. Previously, she worked for the Las Cruces Sun-News in New Mexico and the Rapid City Journal in the Black Hills of South Dakota. She has been a reporter at the West Central Tribune for nearly 27 years.

Vanderwerf can be reached at email: or phone 320-214-4340
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