Smith promises active role as Dayton's No. 2
ST. PAUL — Tina Smith is about to begin a big year, making the transition from Gov. Mark Dayton's chief of staff to his lieutenant governor.
She's promising to take an active, visible role — no easy thing for any governor's No. 2. Although she's still figuring out what her role will be, Smith said she wants to serve more publicly as the governor's right hand than her predecessors.
Smith will continue working on the board overseeing the economic development project for Mayo Clinic's Destination Medical Center in Rochester. She said she also plans to work on other initiatives that focus on job growth in different parts of the state.
The Minnesota Constitution simply requires a lieutenant governor to fill a vacancy in the governor's office. But Smith said Dayton is giving her a lot of freedom and flexibility in her role.
"He is incredibly generous about making sure that I have a chance to do what I want to do," she said. "I in turn want to do work that supports what his agenda is, because it's my agenda, too," she said.
Smith has already received some advice from former Vice President Walter Mondale. The Minnesota politician served under President Jimmy Carter.
"What the vice president told me is that one of the most important things that I can do is to be an adviser to the governor," Smith said. "I can really be his eyes and ears. I can get out, and people will talk to me and tell me things, and that's helpful to us. It keeps us from getting insulated and insular."
Dayton said he will especially count on Smith to play an active role while he's busy during the legislative session and likely unable to attend many events.
"We haven't gotten into whether she'll pick certain policy areas or not. I would guess we'll overlap," he said.