Longtime Hennepin County commissioner won’t run again

Surly Brewing toast
Hennepin County Commissioner Mike Opat (center) toasts with Surly Brewing Co. owner Omar Ansari (left) and other local officials during the groundbreaking of Surly's brewery in Minneapolis. Opat says he’s ready to move on to the next phase of his life and will not seek re-election in the fall.
Jeffrey Thompson | MPR News 2013

After serving nearly 28 years on the Hennepin County Board, Commissioner Mike Opat said Tuesday he will not seek another term.

Opat was first elected in 1993 to represent District 1 which covers several inner-ring suburbs north of Minneapolis. He has also served as the board's chair.

During his tenure, Opat supported actions that drew passionate public debate such as the county-wide smoking ban and the sales tax which helped fund the construction of Target Field.

Opat said he's also proud of his role in less controversial projects, such as reducing teen pregnancies and shepherding major infrastructure upgrades.

"The improvement of Highway 100 in the Robbinsdale, Crystal area was the scene of many crashes - some of the worst intersections in the state,” he said. “It wasn't on anybody's budget. We got together with the mayors up there and I pulled some folks together and we got that done."

A lot has changed in the county over the nearly three decades Opat has sat on the county board - particularly the racial and ethnic make up of his district. Opat said there are more Liberian immigrants living in his district than anywhere else in the world outside of Liberia. And he adds that he’s enjoyed representing this and other immigrant communities in the district.

Opat is the third commissioner who will not seek re-election. Commissioners Jeff Johnson and Jan Callison have also said they will not run again for office.

Opat said while he’ll miss working with constituents and colleagues, he’s ready to move on to the next phase of his life.

"I'm 58 years old now and it just seemed like the time is right,” he said. “I feel good about what I've done at the county. And I'd like to take that energy and try to do something else."

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