Speaking up

Marty Seifert, a former member of the Minnesota House, hasn’t quite left politics behind

MARSHALL — Marty Seifert liked the Minnesota State Capitol enough to come back to it in a different role.

Seifert works as a government relations specialist, a term that’s applied to lobbyists. He has two clients, the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities and Minnesota’s Centers for Independent Living, which assist people who have disabilities.

The Marshall resident previously served seven terms in the Minnesota House of Representatives from 1997 to 2011. He was the Republican House Minority Leader from 2007 to 2009, then a candidate for governor in 2010 and 2014. He listed 1990s flood control, the 2002-2005 rebuilding of the Southwest Minnesota State University Student Center, and Brandon’s Law named after missing college-age adult Brandon Swanson as three of the greatest accomplishments made during his time in the House.

He said he’s had some negative views of lobbyists in the past, and still does if a lobbyist isn’t genuinely committed to the employer.

“There are some groups I’d never lobby for,” Seifert said. “I decided to try it because someone was needed to advocate for rural cities and for people with disabilities. Those are both causes I believe in strongly.”

He said many different things occupy a lobbyist’s time when the House and Senate are in session. They include meeting with lawmakers, committee testimony, input on legislation and tracking the progress of bills.

He said the Centers for Independent Living usually propose several bills a year, while the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities normally has about a dozen.

A lobbyist helps to lay the groundwork for each bill by providing concise, easy-to-read background information.

“It’s important to keep the written material to just one or two pages,” Seifert said. “I know from experience that legislators get more information than they can possibly read. We want ours to be something they can get through.”

When a bill reaches committees, a lobbyist arranges for testimony. They’ll often invite stakeholders from throughout Minnesota to share their stories.

As an example, Seifert pointed to a man from northern Minnesota who lived in a rustic home in the North Woods and ate squirrel as his most frequent main dish. He started working with his Center for Independent Living and now has a job and an income that allows him to afford more of life’s necessities.

“It’s important to include the clients,” he said. “The committees want to hear from average citizens. Both of my organizations have a tremendous pool of people who can testify.”

Melissa Doherty, director of the regional Southwest Center for Independent Living based in Marshall, said Seifert is an effective representative at the Capitol who takes the time to stay well acquainted with her organization.

“He does a really good job for us,” Doherty said. “He has excellent knowledge of the legislative process and he cares about what we do.”

Marshall Mayor Bob Byrnes, who has served as mayor for 24 years including Seifert’s entire time in the House, considers him an ideal person to represent rural cities. Marshall is a member of the coalition.

“He knows the legislature so well,” Byrnes said. “He grew up in rural Minnesota and has been on the lawmaker’s side of the fence. We’re very glad to have him.”