ST PAUL — Minnesota's U.S. Rep. Tina Smith joked that former-Gov. Mark Dayton "rebelled" against having his portrait painted to display in the state Capitol. The joke was that he only wanted a Polaroid photo taken.
But after some persuading from his family, Dayton told a crowd gathered in the Rotunda that he relented. Smith, who served as lieutenant governor during Dayton's administration, was the one to pull the velvet cloak off of the portrait, revealing a smiling Dayton standing before the state Capitol dome.
Among several legacies, Democratic Gov. Tim Walz said Thursday, Oct. 17, that Dayton will be remembered for leading legislation to fund $310 million in renovations to the Capitol in an effort to preserve "this incredible piece of Minnesota history and this legacy to our democracy."
Walz also commemorated Dayton's work in education throughout his time in office. Most notably, Dayton pushed for publicly funded all-day Kindergarten in 2013, and expand access to public pre-k programs.
"The emphasis that Mark Dayton put on our littlest Minnesotans is a legacy that will quite obviously and very truly live on forever," Walz said.
Smith pointed to other executive highlights of Dayton's eight years in office, including signing gay marriage into law, a state tax overhaul, and turning the state's $6.2 billion projected deficit when he entered office into a $1.5 billion surplus by the time he left.
She also said Dayton's legacy lives on in those who worked in his administration, who she said were given "the opportunity to do work with purpose, for the people.
"Every one of us has been deeply touched by the opportunity Mark gave us to serve our state and each of us is better, wiser, more tenacious and strong for having worked with him," she said.
Dayton pointed to those coworkers in public service as his "most priceless treasures," saying, "I thank you so much for enriching my life."
Joking that he "wasn't so enthusiastic about this whole portrait thing," Dayton said that he "wanted nothing to do with something that signified not only the end of my terms as governor, but also the conclusion of my 50-year career in public service."
But instead of just a Polaroid, Dayton said his grandchildren will now get to see a portrait of him in the Capitol halls. And when other schoolchildren tour the Capitol, Walz said they'll look at the portrait and read a plaque about the governor who invested in the building they'll stand in, and in them.