FERGUS FALLS -- Rep. Bud Nornes, who has served Otter Tail County in the Minnesota House of Representatives since 1997, has decided not to run for reelection this year.
“You struggle with these decisions, but I finally came to the conclusion it’s the right time,” he said. “I will not be on the November ballot.”
The Republican was elected in 1996 and since then he’s authored bills that provided funding for a variety of projects in Otter Tail County including Fergus Falls’ riverfront corridor development, Glendalough State Park’s visitor and trail center and the regional trail from Perham to Pelican Rapids.
His work dealing with issues in his district, he says, is what he’s proudest of in his career.
“Going way back to the first term, my first term is when we got the Bigwood Event Center built,” he said. “It starts there, more recently helping the library get built.”
He also worked on committees focused on education, agriculture and finance, including being chairman of the House’s committee on higher education and serving as the Republican lead on the House’s Higher Education Finance and Policy Division. “I served on the school board here (in Fergus Falls) for 12 years, so education has always been important,” he said. “When I went to the Legislature, I served on education the entire time. I also had a chance to chair the higher education committee, which to me was a real honor, to have the Speaker of the House ask me if I’d do that.”
Nornes also maintained his presence in the community through the Fergus Falls Chamber of Commerce, the Fergus Falls Noon Kiwanis and United Way of Otter Tail and Wadena Counties, among other local organizations. He’d also frequently get calls from constituents who found him in the phone book calling for help with issues ranging from getting signed up for health insurance to doing something about robocalls.
Before running for office, Nornes was passionate about radio and broadcasting, attending Brown Institute of Broadcasting in Mendota Heights. He worked for over 30 years in radio and owned KJJK AM/FM radio stations in Fergus Falls, an occupation he says even his grandchildren don’t know about.
“I’ve had 10 grandchildren born during the time I’ve been in the legislature. My grandchildren don’t know that I had another job before this one,” he said.
Now that he’s retiring from politics, he hopes to spend more time with his family. “(My grandchildren) are all growing up, going to college, beyond college, occasionally there’s a wedding,” Nornes said. “They’re scattered all over the country, so California here we come, Arizona, wherever they happen to be living at the time, that’s something we’ll have flexibility to deal with.”
He’s glad to have represented District 8A for so long, saying, “I have been in, probably, the best part of the state to represent,” he said, not only because of how beautiful the area is and how good the economy is, but because the people are kind and civil, even when there are disagreements. Working with the people in his district has been his favorite part of serving in the House, more so than attending sessions in St. Paul.
He’s not sure who will step up to run in his place this November, but he’s already spoken to one promising candidate. “Jordan Rasmusson is his name. He’s a life-long resident of Fergus Falls, has gone away to Harvard and now is back making Fergus Falls his home. I think he’s a candidate that people need to look hard at, because, again, he’s in the age group that brings a lot of new energy,” Nornes said.