NORTH MANKATO — Rep. Clark Johnson plans to retire from the Minnesota Legislature after 2018.
The North Mankato Democrat announced Monday he would not seek re-election to the Legislature this November. Johnson said his age and desire to spend more time with his family prompted his decision.
"I turn 66 and a half a year from now," he said. "It's just time to retire."
Johnson was first elected in a special session in 2013 after then-Rep. Terry Morrow of St. Peter resigned from the Legislature. He has built a reputation for working with both Democrats and Republicans on agricultural and transportation issues. His work as a former Minnesota State University counselor also made him a DFL expert in higher education.
Yet Johnson said he's most proud of his work getting the state to save more money in reserves in case of an economic downturn, as well as his recent legislative victory in securing funding for a Minnesota Security Hospital renovation and staff increase at its St. Peter location.
His colleagues describe him as a strong advocate for Greater Minnesota in the Legislature.
"Clark was so hardworking that I knew if he was telling me something that he had researched it thoroughly," said Rep. Jack Considine, DFL-Mankato.
Considine said he considered Johnson a lawmaker people could "trust implicitly" at the Capitol.
House Transportation Committee Chair Paul Torkelson worked with Johnson on a number of issues, including securing Corridors of Commerce funding to improve Highway 14 over the past few years.
"I have a lot of respect for him and really enjoy working with him," said Torkelson, a Republican from Hanska.
Johnson has several goals for his last legislative session, which starts next month. He hopes lawmakers will create a MinnesotaCare-based public option for the individual insurance market — a DFL-championed issue he helped former Sen. Kathy Sheran, DFL-Mankato, introduce in 2016.
Johnson also wants to secure approval for paramedics and EMTs to administer some types of patient-carried medicine in a medical emergency, an issue he took up after visiting with several families in his district.
District 19A, which Johnson represents, covers all of Nicollet County and a small part of Blue Earth and Le Sueur counties. Local DFL officials say about three or four people have expressed interest in running to replace Johnson as a Democrat. Some Republicans see District 19A as a potential GOP pick-up seat because the district voted for President Donald Trump in 2016.
In 2014, Johnson defeated Republican challenger Kim Spears 54 to 46 percent and by 53 to 47 percent in 2016.
Follow Trey Mewes on Twitter at @MFPTreyMewes.