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Ozment gets attention

ST. PAUL -- Veteran Rep. Dennis Ozment is retiring from the Minnesota House this year, but does not appear to be in a legislative senior slide.

Ozment, a Rosemount Republican respected by both GOP and Democratic lawmakers, was picked to serve on a high-level budget negotiating committee in the legislative session's final weeks.

On top of that, during Thursday's House session, Ozment found himself in the front of the chamber, filling in for House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, DFL-Minneapolis.

Kelliher occasionally calls on a handful of House Democrats to sit in for her, but it's unusual for a Republican to appear at the speaker's rostrum.

Ozment led House activities for a little while before joking with fellow representatives: "I'm ready for relief up here."

House Majority Leader Tony Sertich, DFL-Chisholm, sought to reassure the flustered Ozment.

"I do think you're doing a good job up there," Sertich said.

Kelliher eventually relieved Ozment, who later stood at his desk to publicly thank Kelliher for the opportunity to lead the chamber.

"It was exciting, but at my age I can only stand so much fun," Ozment joked.

Kelliher told Ozment he has "served this body very well," and with that House members gave Ozment a standing ovation.

Ozment, currently the longest-serving House Republican, was first elected in 1984.