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.