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COL It's time to select Person of the Year

It's almost time to name the 2002 "Person of the Year" for our little piece of the tundra.

Following, in alphabetical order, are eight nominees I think are most worthy of the award. But I'm just a columnist. Feel free to write in your own candidate.

Send me your vote by Jan. 5, and I'll announce a winner soon after that.

My elite eight:

Anonymous: An anonymous donor from the Twin Cities pledged $1 million to the Rochester Art Center construction project. Lots of anonymous people gave life-saving blood during the past year. Countless anonymous people donated money and canned goods this holiday season. And, last but not least, an anonymous Austin city election judge took home 17 election ballots and burned them in her fireplace, throwing the District 27 Senate race in turmoil.

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Terese Amazi. Say it ain't so, Marge Gunderson. Never in the state's history has there been a female sheriff in any of Minnesota's 87 counties. Amazi, who does her law enforcement work in Mower County, will become the first.

She should be an excellent trend setter: She's experienced, smart, articulate and has won the respect of her male colleagues.

Sheila Kiscaden. There were few more controversial figures in state politics.

She bolted the Republican Party after she failed to gain the GOP endorsement at the local convention. Conservative Republicans, who turned against Kiscaden largely because of her moderate positions on abortion and gun control, waged a hard-fought battle to defeat her.

But she won the support of many leaders in the business and medical communities, and eked out a victory.

The Olmsted County Board. It was the best of times and the worst of times for county commissioners. Their bold move to outlaw smoking in county restaurants, although controversial at first, was generally praised by the public after it took effect.

However, things turned sour for commissioners last month when on a 4-3 vote they decided to raise their salaries a whopping 26 percent. That commissioners were in line for a raise was not in doubt. But the amount and the timing defied logic. The double-digit bump comes at a time when the incoming governor is talking about freezing pay for state workers.

Still, the four commissioners who voted for the increase showed Lott-like defiance in the face of criticism from constituents.

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Tim Pawlenty. A lot of people in this part of the state still don't know much about our governor-to-be. Here's what I know: He grew up in South St. Paul, attended public schools all the way through law school, likes to play hockey, has a wife named Mary and two kids and is a sharp dresser. From what I've seen, he also likes to give hugs. Oh, and he served five terms in the state House of Representatives.

The Republican overcame a name recognition problem and a brief campaign controversy. His campaign mantra was that as governor he would not raise taxes to resolve the state's budget deficit. It struck a nerve.

Paul Wellstone. Political scientists and historians will be writing books about how the senior Minnesota senator's death in an October plane crash changed the dynamics of the November election in our state.

Jerry Williams. The Rochester school district has been floating on choppy waters during the past year. But past and present interim superintendent Jerry Williams has kept the ship steady. The new board's first move in 2003 should be to remove the "interim."

John Wodele. Wodele has had some interesting jobs -- mayor of Wabasha, state campaign chairman for Bill Clinton, administrator in the Ramsey County Attorney's Office, to name a few. But none of those jobs likely prepared him for his role as Gov. Jesse Ventura's communications director. He'll be repeating the phrase, "What the governor meant to say," in his dreams for years.

Pass along your votes. They're safe with me; I don't own a fireplace.

Greg Sellnow's columns appear Tuesdays and Saturdays. He can be reached at 285-7703 or by e-mail at sellnow@postbulletin.com.

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