Fighting for the iron range way of life

Aurora Mayor Dave Lislegard, an advocate for mining, healthy rural communities and “the Iron Range way of life,” hopes to bring his passion for jobs and a brighter economic future for the region to the Legislature in St. Paul.

Lislegard, 45, has announced he will seek the DFL Party’s nomination for House 6B, a legislative district in the core Iron Range that includes his native Embarrass area.

Filings for legislative offices open on May 22. Lislegard will run in the Aug. 14 primary for the DFL nomination. The general election is Nov. 5.

DFL Rep. Jason Metsa currently holds the House 6B seat, but is not seeking re-election and is running for Congress from the 8th District. Democratic U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan, who has served two different congressional districts — the 6th and 8th — is retiring.

“I am a pro-labor, pro-business, pro-jobs DFLer,” Lislegard said in announcing his candidacy. “I have lived the difficult roller-coaster economy of the Range that has resulted in loss of jobs, population, security for workers and their families, and opportunities for our young people.

“We can do better, we must do better. And I believe I can make a positive difference for the people of the Iron Range at the State Capitol,” he added.

Dave and Lisa Lislegard of Aurora have been married 23 years. Lisa works for the Minnesota Department of Transportation and is a member of AFSCME. They have two children — Hailey, 24, who lives in Aurora and is a heavy equipment operator with Local 49 Operating Engineers, and Nadia, 21, who lives in Iowa and works in the service industry.

Lislegard, who is part of a four-generation Iron Range mining-related family, graduated from Babbitt Embarrass School. After graduating he became a proud member of Steelworker Local 4108 while working at the former LTV Mine in Hoyt Lakes before being laid off in 2001 when the plant closed.

He then spent two years at Mesabi Community College. He then attended the University of Minnesota-Duluth, graduating with a degree in political science and communications.

While in college, Lislegard worked labor as a member of Local 1097 to support his family. He has worked for 14 years in business relations at Lakehead Constructors with offices on the Range and in Superior, Wis.

Lislegard served 14 years as an Aurora city councilor before being elected mayor in 2017. He is president of the Range Association of Municipalities and Schools and sits on the executive boards of the Laurentian Chamber of Commerce and Jobs for Minnesota.

Lislegard said he knows first-hand the importance and value of education offerings on the Range, and also the uncertainty families face when jobs are lost.

“It’s so tough on people. Thank goodness for our schools and higher education,” he said.

The dignity of work and regular paychecks are vital to the stability of families and communities, according to Lislegard.

And, he said, on the Iron Range that means multiple recreation use of lands and water, logging and all mining, including the PolyMet copper/nickel/strategic metals and Twin Metals projects.

“PolyMet has met or exceeded all permitting rules and regulations. It’s way past time to get the mine producing and workers cashing paychecks,” Lislegard said.

Mining can be done with environmental safeguards in place, and “we can have both a protected environment and a strong mining economy,” the candidate said.

“The Iron Range way of life is honoring and celebrating our past, working hard in the present and striving for a better future. I pledge to do just that in St. Paul for the Range and its good, resilient people,” he said.