Rep. Nick Zerwas, who has represented his home area of Elk River – as well as Big Lake and Otsego – in the Minnesota State Legislature for much of the past decade, is resigning from his seat, according to an announcement released today. The legislator said he will step down on Friday, Dec. 6, 2019.
Rep. Zerwas issued the following statement regarding his decision to depart the legislature.
“For the last 13 years it has been the honor of my lifetime to serve my neighbors in Elk River on the city council and the state legislature. My recent heart surgery brought into focus the need to spend as much time as I can with my wife and 3-year-old son and spend my prime working years providing the best possible life for my family. It is not easy leaving a job that I absolutely love, but I’m able to depart on my own terms with no regrets and with optimism for what lies ahead. I want to thank my parents, my brothers, my wife Bette and my son for being unbelievably supportive of my service in the legislature.”
Zerwas was first elected to the legislature in 2012, and is in his fourth term. Previously, he served six years on the Elk River City Council, and prior to that worked for the Anoka County Crime Lab and Target Corporation’s private forensic lab. Zerwas was diagnosed at a young age with a congenital heart defect, and his parents were told he would not live past the age of 7. He has had more than 11 heart surgeries, including two during his time in the legislature. Now 38, he lives in Elk River with his wife, Bette and their young son.
Currently, Zerwas serves as the Republican Lead on the House Government Operations Committee and served as the only House Republican on the Public Safety and Judiciary Conference Committee during the 2019 session. During his legislative career, he championed many public safety and health care issues. Zerwas led successful bipartisan efforts to reform Minnesota’s use of solitary confinement in prisons, and chief authored Minnesota’s ‘Right to Try’ Act which was signed into law by Governor Dayton in 2015. Last year, Zerwas was invited to the White House for President Donald Trump’s signing ceremony for federal Right to Try legislation.
Various advocacy groups have recognized Zerwas as legislator of the year, including the 2018 Legislator of the Year award by the Minnesota State Fire Chiefs Association for authoring legislation which was signed into law that recognized Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as an “occupational disease.” The change allows firefighters, police officers and paramedics diagnosed with PTSD the presumption that the diagnosis is a work-related illness.
Zerwas chief authored high-profile (and somewhat controversial) legislation to increase penalties for unlawful protests that block interstates and transit lines, which passed the House multiple times but was blocked and vetoed by then-Gov. Mark Dayton. He was an outspoken leader in combatting childcare and other fraud in the Department of Human Services as a member of the Health and Human Services Finance Committee for his entire tenure at the legislature.
Zerwas has led multiple local efforts, most recently supporting Corridors of Commerce funding that led to $174 million to convert Highway 169 into a freeway in Elk River, and helping to secure bonding funds in 2018 for dredging of Lake Orono and wastewater treatment in Big Lake.
As a result of the timing of Zerwas’ resignation, Gov. Tim Walz will be required to issue a writ of special election in order to ensure, as required by state law, that District 30A has a legislator in place prior to the 2020 session.