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Don Davis, Forum News Service, Published May 10 2012

Sen. Langseth on retirement: 'It is time to move on'

ST. PAUL - Torrey Westrom recalled the last time he saw the Minnesota House chamber when he was in sixth grade, a few years before he was blinded and several years before becoming a state representative.

Bill Hilty said many of his colleagues will be back next year and “carrying on, which makes my decision easier.”

They were among 23 Minnesota House representatives leaving after this session, along with 13 senators.

In an every-two-year ritual, legislators departing delivered speeches, sometimes teary, sometimes humorous and sometimes just long, Thursday as the 2012 Minnesota Legislature ended.

The House adjourned for the year before 4 a.m. and the Senate just after 2 p.m.

Sen. Keith Langseth, DFL-Glyndon, served in the Legislature for 36 years.

“I’ve always had something else I wanted to do until now, and what I want to do now is say goodbye,” Langseth said. “It is time to move on.”

Langseth said he will now be able to spend more time with his wife.

He has been one of the longest serving lawmakers, well known for his work on public works borrowing plans and flood issues.

“I was 12 years old when Keith Langseth was first elected,” Sen. Sean Nienow, R-Cambridge, tweeted during Langseth’s speech.

Speeches included several featuring tear-filled eyes, such as Rep. Kate Knuth, DFL-New Brighton, who apologized to a former boyfriend for being too involved in her legislative job, and Rep. Larry Hosch, DFL-St. Joseph, who said it was time to leave because since he was elected he married and became a father.

Some representatives, like Westrom, hope to keep a job under the Capitol dome, but as senators.

Westrom, R-Elbow Lake, began his speech by wadding up a piece of paper and throwing it aside.

“I wrote up a bunch of notes, but I will crumble them up and throw them away,” the state’s only blind lawmaker said. “I haven’t use notes in 16 years and will not start tonight.”

One of the House members seeking a Senate seat is Rep. Kent Eken, DFL-Twin Valley, a second generation state representative.

The true sign of service is ““when a person plants trees that they never will enjoy...” said Eken. “We need to be thinking about the next generation, not just the next election.”

Eken said he planned to run for the House again until judges drew new legislative districts that threw him in with Rep. Paul Marquart, DFL-Dilworth.

“I wasn’t able to dig up enough dirt on Paul,” he joked, so he had to run for another office.

Hilty, DFL-Finlayson, generally is quiet lawmaker but Thursday he turned comedian.

Reading a saying in the front of the House chamber, he said; “The voice of the people is the voice of God.”

After a pause, he added: “If God was a Vikings fan, why did he let us lose four Super Bowls?”