Bob Dettmer fortunate to have worked a public job

FL resident responds to letter from Rep. Dettmer’s wife.

Michael Lafave
Guest Columnist

I’m writing in response to Colleen Dettmer’s column “Legislator’s wife defends her husband” whose comments were directed at me.

First and foremost I would like to be clear about her comment “Sometime last summer, Bob talked briefly to Mr. Lafave wishing to have a meeting with him in person. Mr. Lafave has not gotten back to him on a date for that meeting.”

I did talk to Rep. Dettmer who called me about a column I had written last summer where I reminded Rep. Dettmer that in his Forest Lake Times column, he was blaming Gov. Dayton for a budget mess that was created before Dayton was ever elected governor. While not being rude or out of line, it is fair to say that Rep. Dettmer called because he was unhappy about what I had written. In addition to discussing what I had written, Rep. Dettmer brought up things he disagreed with when Dayton was a U.S. Senator and ridiculed Gov. Dayton.

The conversation was not a brief conversation as Mrs. Dettmer wrote but was rather long. The conversation ended with a discussion about possibly getting together and having a cup of coffee sometime and maybe we would find out we have a lot more in common than we think. There was no mention of having “a meeting” or any commitment to do so. There also was no mention of who would contact who and since it was Rep. Dettmer who had called me on my unlisted phone number (how did he get that anyway), he could have also called.

Nevertheless, I had contacted Rep. Dettmer by email and phone after our phone conversation and as recently as the latter part of January, well before Mrs. Dettmer wrote her column. To be clear, I contacted him to find out his position on pending legislation; I did receive a return call from his staff but Rep. Dettmer never personally returned my call. The statement that I’ve never contacted him since our phone conversation is false and misleading.

I understand Mrs. Dettmer being defensive about her husband’s work habits while he is collecting a part time salary of $42,000 per year (plus benefits) working as our state representative. Mrs. Dettmer’s defense is Rep. Dettmer spends a lot of time at “meetings, speaking engagements (and no, he doesn’t get paid for them), helping people resolve conflicts, the countless emails he answers and the many phone calls he makes responding to constituents.” I’m sure he does and I commend him for it; his office has always responded to my inquiries.

However it is Rep. Dettmer who wrote about “Equalizing government pay and benefits with those in the private sector.”

My point of mentioning it was I doubt that there are many part-time jobs in the private sector where employees officially work 64 days a year and receive $42,000 a year plus a generous health insurance and pension package. In addition, in many jobs in the private sector (including mine) attending meetings, speaking engagements, returning phone calls, emails and resolving conflict after regular working hours is a everyday occurrence.

As far as Mrs. Dettmer saying “he doesn’t get paid for them”; isn’t that what he was elected to do and part of his job duties?

In addition, it is my understanding that most of the other state representatives and senators have other jobs in addition to their elected positions and still manage to fill their responsibilities as our elected representatives.

I commend Rep. Dettmer for his 34 years of service as a public school teacher and believe it is an honorable profession. I believe tax dollars that are spent on public sector middle class jobs that enable a person to make a living wage and raise a family is money well spent; Rep. Dettmer was fortunate to have worked in such a job for 34 years.

That is why I’m baffled that Rep. Dettmer now supports an agenda that demonizes our friends and neighbors who make a middle class wage while plowing our streets, enforcing our laws, providing emergency services and teaching our children

—The writer lives in Forest Lake.

  • max anderson

    I am sure that Mrs. Dettmer is well aware of all the public service pensions her husband will recieve. One for being a teacher, one for being a reservist, one for being a legislator and social security.

    It is funny that politicians like Dettmer attack public employeess and the middle class wages and pensions they fail to mention they are already getting theirs.

    In Dettmers case four of them.

    If Dettmer is concerned about all the public money going to real people who earn it perhaps he should give up a couple of his pensions funded by taxpayers.

    If Dettmer gave up two public pensions of the four I would believe he is serious about this issue, instead he has the typical Tea Party rhetoric of I got mine the heck with you!

    • Eric Langness

      Representative Dettmer and his wife deserve the pension for time served in our military, teaching our children, representing us at the state capitol and social security. When he signed up for all of those positions he was made promises and our government needs to stand behind them. What he also realizes is that it is a failed plan for our government to keep making so many promises and be realistic and reduce this so it doesn’t happen moving forward.

      You’re sure quick to judge Representative Dettmer for not giving up what he is due when you should be thanking him for serving our community even further at the state capitol when he could be enjoying retirement like so many others. What have you given up in comparison to what you’re asking?

      Lastly, I don’t believe the state representatives and senators are well underpaid in comparison to the private sector. They have a $35,000 salary if I’m correct and don’t have all these pie in the sky retirement plans you wish to believe they do. Our federal congress on the other hand, absolutely outrageous.

      • max anderson


        As usual you miss the point, you may wish the best taxpayer funded income for Dettmer’s retirment and I am guessing it is because he is of the same political persuasion as you, your feeble attempt to explain away the disparity between Dettmer and the cuts he wants to make on current public employees is laughable and desperate, if Dettmer believes they don’t deserve them now then neither does he.

        I find it interesting that the right wingers want to decimate public employees while holding out their hand and lining up at the trough.

        Dettmer is a hippacrite and worse, his party has proved itself unfit to govern and he should retire again for the fourth time. Detmmer gets paid a wage, per diem and has subsdized taxapyer funded healthcare available and another pension, he is hardly performing a public service, it is more like his mitts are in the cookie jar, deep for a bigger share of the pie than he wants others to have.

  • Michael LaFave

    I do not begrudge Rep Dettmer for the pensions he has earned and commend him for his years teaching in the public schools and his years of service to our country. I hoping he just needs to be reminded of where he came from and that most all public sector jobs pay a middle class wage and hopefully a comfortable retirement.

  • Josh Smith

    “I commend Rep. Dettmer for his 34 years of service as a public school teacher and believe it is an honorable profession. I believe tax dollars that are spent on public sector middle class jobs that enable a person to make a living wage and raise a family is money well spent; Rep. Dettmer was fortunate to have worked in such a job for 34 years.”

    The above statement from the article comes across as implying that state money is spent on education to provide work for the teachers. Respectable work may be a result of public schools, but the reason the money is spent is to educate our children. If there is a better and more cost effective way than public schools to educate (and I’m not saying there is) then shouldn’t we explore that option? Keeping a public job for the sake of the person working in that job will not often result in the most effective or efficient government.

    • max anderson

      You are correct Dettmer was fortunate, all the more reason that todays teachers be treated equally as well, perhaps if parents would turn off the video games take away the cell phones and tell their children to do their homework instead of demanding that teachers try to educate a child that is ill prepared on a daily basis for school.

      It used to be if a child got in trouble at school they would be in bigger trouble when they got home, many of todays parents defend the childs bad behavior instead of grounding them for their actions. I think public employees are getting a bad rap, the attacks from the right are uncalled for and class warfare.

    • Michael LaFave

      The part of Rep Dettmer’s reform agenda I was addressing was about equalizing public sector jobs with private sector jobs. Private sector school teachers are paid substantially less than public school teachers. That part of the reform agenda does not address better outcomes, just equalizing pay for all types of public sector jobs, not just teachers.

      To the other comment about state legilators salaries and benefits; they are well paid jobs with great benefits, especially for a part time jobs. I believe you will be hard pressed to find a part time job that pays $42000 a year plus a great health insurance plan with a state pension. The legislators are only in session (officially working) a few months a year.