Simpson says he’d bring rural voice to lieutenant governor post
Former state representative Dean Simpson of Perham and Kurt Zellers, a Republican candidate for governor, served in the House together.
Last year, when Zellers announced his campaign, he asked Simpson to lend him a hand. This past May, he asked him an even bigger favor – to join him on the ticket as lieutenant governor.
“I felt it was a great honor and opportunity,” said Simpson, who recently stopped at the Echo Press office on a campaign swing through the area. “It was the right time and the right place.”
Simpson noted that he brings a strong rural background to the ticket. “I think I have a good feeling about what the pulse of rural Minnesota is,” he said.
He and his family acquired a grocery store in New York Mills in 1970, replaced it with a larger store in the late 1970s and opened a second grocery store in Perham. Simpson also developed a 40-acre business park in Perham in 2007 and recruited the 10 mostly new businesses to the site that is anchored by his expanded grocery store.
In 2006, Simpson was named Minnesota Grocer of the Year. He presently serves on the Minnesota Grocers Association executive board.
Simpson was first elected to the New York Mills City Council in 1973 and became mayor in 1977, a position he held until 2002 when he was elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives.
As mayor, he led several economic development projects, hired the city’s first economic developer, established an industrial park and a housing development project, and worked on rebuilding downtown New York Mills by replacing blighted buildings with new businesses.
Rural Minnesota is losing out on job opportunities because of the high cost of assessments, Simpson said. He’s heard of lots that are available for $1,000 but come with $20,000 worth of assessments.
He said that the Zellers/Simpson ticket would help rural areas develop infrastructure to keep assessments low and attract businesses.
Another issue that would help rural areas, Simpson said, is to encourage high school students to pursue high-tech manufacturing careers by offering college course credits for mechanical and electrical studies.
Simpson described the Alexandria Technical and Community College as a “shining star” for partnering with local manufacturers and the school district on job training.
Simpson and his wife Kathy, a nurse practitioner, have four children and six grandchildren. Simpson spends his free time with his family and grandchildren, and is an avid hunter and fisherman.