MARSHALL - Wabasso Superintendent Tedd Suss believes things are far too partisan at the state Capitol and it's keeping legislators from getting things done. So he's drawing on his past experience in the Legislature and his 12 years of work as a superintendent to try to help change that.
That Suss is running for the DFL endorsement for the new District 16 Senate seat shouldn't come as much of a surprise. He served in the Legislature from 1973-76 and has worked closely with legislators during his 12 years as a superintendent - the last nine in the Wabasso School District, a position he's retiring from after this school year. His hiatus from political office, he says, has prepared him to get back in the game. He said his experience as a superintendent will prove even more valuable to him in the Senate than his past legislative experiences.
"I feel far more prepared to serve in the Legislature now than I was in the '70s," he said. "I just have so much more relevant life experience. Managing a school district is like a small business, and one of the things that comes with that experience is the ability to learn with negotiation labor agreements and balancing budgets."
And that will be Suss' focus should he earn the DFL nomination and become elected. He said a long-term budget solution will be his main target if elected and spoke frankly about the current Legislature's inability to right the state's financial ship.
"We need to get the budget in this state back on track," he said. "The Legislature has become almost totally dysfunctional over the last decade or two. When you hold a public office you have to be willing to step back and say, 'what can we do cooperatively to solve this problem, to cause this good thing to happen and prevent a bad thing from happening?' We've seen legislators become more and more partisan and less willing to cooperate. We all know that 'compromise' seems to have become a dirty word in politics."
Suss said he's always maintained a strong interest in government; he worked for the Academies for the Deaf and Blind Schools for five years and was the executive director of the Minnesota Board of Education for another five years - positions that put him face to face with policymakers on education issues. He left politics after losing the 1978 election to Tom Rees by a scant 22 votes in the 1978 election. He served as superintendent in both Ivanhoe (2000-03) and Wabasso.
Having a strong education background, Suss applauds the House for passing legislation Thursday to use surplus money to start paying schools money owed to them by the state because of funding shifts, but says schools will still face major cash flow problems from an overall lack of funding.
"Getting them paid back prudently is important; it doesn't do any good to pay them back with the state still in financial straits and have to take from them again in a year or two," he said. "More important than the shift is the overall level of funding. Five or six of my years at Wabasso there's been a funding freeze from the previous year, and the Legislature has to provide adequate funding for our schools to at least let them keep pace with inflation."
Suss is the only DFLer to have filed so far for the Senate seat in District 16 (currently SD21). Senate District 21 serves all of Lyon, Redwood, and Brown counties and part of Watonwan. Redistricting will add Lac qui Parle and Yellow Medicine counties and will shift the southern portion of Lyon County to SD22. Republican Gary Dahms of Redwood Falls is the current senator.