Senator Metzen will step down after more than 50 years in politics

DFL state Sen. Jim Metzen of South St. Paul has had a seat in the Minnesota Senate Chamber for the past nine terms. (file photo)
DFL state Sen. Jim Metzen of South St. Paul has had a seat in the Minnesota Senate Chamber for the past nine terms. (file photo)

State Sen. Jim Metzen, DFL-South St. Paul, announced last weekend that he will not be running for a tenth term in District 52.

One of the Legislature's longest-serving members, Metzen said on Jan. 23 that this term would be his last one. 

"We've been through a lot and accomplished quite a bit," he said in an interview last week. "I've enjoyed my work over the period of time. I didn't think it would last this long but it has, and I've enjoyed it."

Metzen said his primary reason for retiring at the end of 2016 is his health. He is battling a reoccurrence of lung cancer and being treated by doctors at Mayo Clinic. He takes a daily regimen of chemo pills, and describes himself as "doing OK and surviving." 

Metzen's political career has spanned 50 years, starting when he was a 22-year-old serving on the South St. Paul City Council. 

His dad was a county commissioner and city council member in South St. Paul, and Metzen said politics got into his blood. "I can remember passing out leaflets for him when I was 7 or 8-years-old." 

Currently servicing as chairman of the state Senate Commerce Committee, Metzen is a former Senate president.

Metzen said what kept him coming back year-after-year was he enjoyed serving the public and being able to help others. 

Metzen especially takes pride in the local projects in which he played a role. He represents most of northern Dakota County - Inver Grove Heights, Lilydale, Mendota, Mendota Heights, Sunfish Lake, West St. Paul and a portion of South St. Paul.

Helping foster girls hockey

In his early 20s, Metzen played semi-professional hockey for the St. Paul Steers. Because of this experience, Metzen took an active role in the Mighty Ducks legislation, which provided $18 million for the construction of 160 ice rinks statewide. 

He authored and carried the bill through the Legislature in 1995, with support of former Rep. Bob Milbert. 

Girls hockey programs were just getting off the ground in the 1990s, and they were struggling to get ice time at arenas that were already booked by boys teams. The new ice sheets allowed the girls hockey programs to become established and flourish. 

Metzen, a retired banker, was presented with the Distinguished Alumni Award in 2013 from the University of Minnesota's College of Education and Human Development. He graduated from the U in 1964.

At the 2014 South St. Paul Educational Foundation's gala, Metzen was recognized as an honoree for his commitment to the organization, as well as the students of the very South St. Paul schools he attended growing up.

Praise around the region

Gov. Mark Dayton described Metzen in a statement as "a very dedicated public servant and wonderful man."

State Rep. Rick Hansen, DFL-South St. Paul, thanked Metzen in a statement for his years of service to the community. 

Hansen said he will miss "Metzen's expertise, leadership, and most importantly, his laughter in the Legislature."

When asked if he intends to seek Metzen's Senate seat, Hansen responded, "I'm running for reelection to the House" in District 52A.

In an earlier Review article, state Rep. Joe Atkins of Inver Grove Heights said many in the Minnesota Legislature knew Metzen as "Domino," (like the pizza chain) because "he delivers."

Metzen said he will miss the people he worked with throughout his career. As he wraps up his final term, he hopes he is known for being fair and getting along with people. 

He said he always tried to have a good working relationship with Republicans senators, pointing out that both Republicans and Democrats elected him Senate president.

"It's not rocket science. Get along with people and work both sides of the aisle, and that's what I tried to do over the years is get along," Metzen said. "I think it pays off."

Hannah Burlingame can be reached at 651-748-7824 or


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