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Rechtzigel makes the grade

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Kenyon-Wanamingo social studies teacher and former Goodhue County Commissioner Dan Rechtzigel listens Jan. 18 at Schweich Bar & Hotel in Kenyon as his sister reads from a letter he wrote in 1987 warning about the crooked nature of politics. Rechtzigel was named Goodhue County Editorial Association’s 2016 Citizen of the Year in recognition of his years of public service. (photo by Michael Brun)2 / 2

KENYON — Dan Rechtzigel smiled as his sister read aloud from a childhood letter of his published in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the terse writing of the 11-year-old Wanamingo student packed with irony.

"Do not go into politics," it began. "Most of the people in politics are crooked."

The letter was not the only time Rechtzigel, now 41, would be quoted in the press. The former Cherry Grove Township clerk and three-term Goodhue County commissioner has been engaged in a number of hot-button issues, and his direct manner of speech was regularly featured in coverage by local newspapers.

Rechtzigel, who stepped away from County Board earlier this month after more than a decade, was recognized for his public service by being named Goodhue County Editorial Association's 2016 Citizen of the Year. The title was bestowed at a surprise ceremony Jan. 18 at Schweich Bar & Hotel in his hometown of Kenyon.

"The only reason why I've been able to do anything that I've done is because of the support of the people who came before me," Rechtzigel said, surrounded by family and colleagues. "And that starts with my mom and dad, who were there all the way, and my aunt and uncle who were always there to help out when I was younger."

Rechtzigel's sister, Dana, speaking on behalf of the family, said she has learned much from her youngest brother.

"I've seen him model how to be calm, cool and collected in the face of controversy," she said, adding it is no surprise to her that Rechtzigel has made an impact in the community.

Goodhue County Administrator Scott Arneson praised Rechtzigel for his dedication as an elected official, pointing to heated debates about wind farms and silica sand mining as well as efforts to defend the South Country Health Alliance county-based health plan at the state Legislature.

"No matter how bad the issue is, Dan's not afraid of it," Arneson said.

Passion for teaching

Though he has long been interested in politics ever since the presidential elections of 1980 and 1984, Rechtzigel said he is most passionate about his career as a social studies teacher at Kenyon-Wanamingo High School.

Fellow teacher Randy Hockinson said Rechtzigel — whom he calls "Rudy" — is a respected educator and a close friend.

"Rudy is very admired among the students," often listing him as their favorite teacher, Hockinson said.

A hallmark of Rechtzigel's time on County Board was bringing a meeting to Kenyon each year so his students could experience local government in action. He vowed to continue the practice and join his class on the audience side of the boardroom.

But when asked if he has plans to one day return to politics, Rechtzigel replied simply, "No."

"Politics was a fun thing to do, but it's not nearly as important to me as teaching," he said. "Teaching is my life."

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Goodhue County Editorial Association member papers are: the Kenyon Leader, Cannon Falls Beacon, Zumbrota News Record and the Red Wing Republican Eagle.

Read about the 2015 Citizen of the Year recipient here.

Michael Brun

Michael Brun joined RiverTown Multimedia at the Red Wing Republican Eagle in March 2013, covering county government, health and local events.  He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-River Falls journalism program.

(651) 301-7875
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