The Potluck

Former Senate minority leader to receive $250K salary in new U of M role

By: - August 23, 2023 9:29 am

Minority Leader Melisa López Franzen, DFL-Edina, addresses the Senate with opening day remarks on the first day of the 2022 legislative session. Photo by A.J. Olmscheid/Senate Media Services.

Former Senate Minority Leader Melisa López Franzen will earn $250,000 per year in her new position as the University of Minnesota’s chief lobbyist at the State Capitol — more than the governor and lieutenant governor combined.

This is a considerable raise from her legislative salary. In 2022, she made up to $67,550 as the Senate minority leader.

Last week, the university announced that López Franzen will be the executive director of government and community relations beginning Aug. 28. She will oversee lobbying efforts for all five University of Minnesota campuses and lobby her former colleagues.

López Franzen, who served three terms in the Legislature, decided not to seek reelection last year despite her leadership status because her former district was radically altered by redistricting. She’s the co-founder and president of a public affairs firm called NewPublica.

Jeff Ettinger, University of Minnesota’s interim president and a former Democratic congressional candidate, said in a statement to the Reformer that he has “complete confidence” that López Franzen will strengthen the university’s public affairs efforts across all its campuses.

“As a Minority Leader in the Minnesota Senate, Melisa gained a reputation for working across party lines to advance work that supported Minnesotans,” Ettinger said. “While that experience is particularly relevant to her U of M role, Melisa also brings relevant professional experience outside of politics that further positions her to successfully lead our Government and Community Relations team.”

The university said it took into account López Franzen’s qualifications, the market rate and the job’s requirements to come to a “competitive salary.” The salary does not require approval from the Board of Regents.

The university disclosed López Franzen’s salary after the Reformer submitted a public records request.

Sen. Zach Duckworth, R-Lakeville, criticized López Franzen’s new salary in a statement.

“In the midst of tuition hikes, record high student loan debt, and declining enrollment, spending a quarter of a million dollars each year on a government lobbyist is out of touch with Minnesota students and their families,” said Duckworth, who serves as the Republican lead on the Senate Higher Education Committee. 

“Any representative of the University can get a meeting with me and most other legislators without (having) to spend $250,000 a year on a lobbyist. Put that toward buying down tuition for all students,” he said.

López Franzen did not immediately respond to the Reformer’s request for comment about her salary.

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Michelle Griffith
Michelle Griffith

Michelle Griffith covers Minnesota politics and policy for the Reformer, with a focus on marginalized communities. Most recently she was a reporter with The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead in North Dakota where she covered state and local government and Indigenous issues.