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Minnesota TRA Board of Trustees History

The Minnesota Teachers Insurance and Retirement Fund Association (commonly called the 1915 Fund) was established by the 1915 legislature. The original Board of Trustees of the 1915 Fund was composed of the State Superintendent of Schools, State Auditor, Attorney General and two active member teachers, elected annually. Board meetings were held quarterly. 

According to Minnesota laws in 1930, the board was composed of the Commissioner of Education, State Auditor, Commissioner of Insurance, and two active members elected by the Fund Association. The ending fund balance on June 30, 1930 was $43,882. The 1915 Fund became insolvent shortly thereafter during the Great Depression.

The 1931 legislature established the revamped Teachers Retirement Fund on August 1, 1931 with the same board of trustee structure. Financial records from the decade of the 1930’s are incomplete at best. During the early 1930’s, TRA employed an Executive Director and a part-time accountant. In 1938, Daisy Brown, one of the active members of the TRA Board, resigned from the board and was hired as the first retirement benefits counselor. She subsequently became Executive Director in 1940 with the retirement of Harry E. White. 

In 1941, the Minnesota Legislature required that TRA publish an annual financial report, which it did for the fiscal year ended June 30, 1943. At that time, the TRA Board of Trustees was composed of five trustees: the Commissioner of Education, the State Auditor, the Commissioner of Insurance, and two active member trustees elected at annual meetings held at local hotels. H. E. Flynn, Commissioner of Education, was the board president. 

The board composition of five trustees remained stable through the 1940’s and 1950’s. From 1931 to 1969, the President of the Board was the Commissioner of Education. Dean Schweickhard, Commissioner of Education, served as board president from 1951-1963. Stafford King, long-time State Auditor, served as a statutory trustee on the TRA Board from 1931 through 1968. 

Board expansion in the 1960s and 70s

Melvin Voxland, a teacher from Rochester, was elected as one of the active member trustees in 1959. He would serve on the board as an active member trustee until 1977. In 1963, the legislature expanded the board from five to seven trustees, with the addition of two active member trustees. In 1965, election reform occurred with the election of two active member trustees for two-year terms, and two active member trustees for four-year terms. The active member election structure has remained since 1965, with two active member trustees elected for four-year terms every odd year. In 1969, Melvin Voxland was voted President of the Board, a position he held through June 1977.

The decade of the 1970s saw further changes to the board structure. In 1973, the State Auditor’s statutory position was replaced by the then newly-created Commissioner of Finance position. The 1977 legislature expanded the TRA Board of Trustees from seven to eight trustees, with the addition of one retiree trustee position. TRA conducted a special election in the fall of 1977 to fill the initial 20-month term for retiree trustee (November 1, 1977 through June 30, 1979). Melvin Voxland was elected to that position. From 1979 through 2001, the term of office for the retiree trustee was two years. Edgar Nordgaard was elected in 1979 for the two-year retiree member trustee but he died during his term in office. Melvin Voxland was appointed by the board to fill the remainder of Nordgaard’s term through June 30, 1981. Beginning July 1, 2001, the retiree term of office was extended from two years to four years.

Richard Larson of Fridley, first elected as an active member to the Board in 1969, was elected President beginning July 1, 1977, and served as trustee and president until 1989. In 1995, Larson was appointed by the board to serve the remainder of the term of the retiree trustee position held by Mark Evans of Staples. Evans was tragically killed in a pedestrian accident in February 1995 while in St. Paul for a board meeting.

Vernell Jackels of Winona served as President of the TRA Board from 1989 through 1999. After 20 years of total trustee service, first as an active member trustee and later as retiree trustee, he retired from the board when his term as retiree member ended in 2005. Barry Sullivan, Legislative Director for the Department of Education, represented the Commissioner of Education as trustee at board meetings from 1983 through 2006. 

The 1994 legislature reconsidered the composition of the Board. A bill introduced in the legislature would have removed the Commissioner of Finance position from the TRA Board of Trustees, lowering the board composition from eight to seven trustees. After legislative consideration, the final bill enacted into law removed the Commissioner of Commerce (formerly Insurance) from the TRA Board of Trustees and replaced the position with a representative from the Minnesota School Boards Association. The board composition remained at eight trustees.

In 2008, the Minnesota Department of Finance was merged with the former Department of Employee Relations and renamed Minnesota Management and Budget (MMB). The Commissioner of MMB remained as a statutory trustee of the TRA Board. 

New technology for board elections

For the 2009 election, TRA offered internet, telephone and paper voting options to active members for the first time. Also in 2009, two trustees, Carol Ackerson of New Ulm and Curtis Hutchens of Saint Cloud, retired from the board after each serving 20 years as an active or retired member trustee. Both had served as President during their trustee service. Martha L. (Marti) Zins of Minnetonka, newly elected in 2009 as retired member trustee, was selected by the board as President. She previously had served for 20 years as an active member trustee.

As of June 30, 2017, current active member trustees are: Mary Broderick (10 years), Mary Supple (eight years), and Marshall Thompson (two years). Will Baumann, newly elected active member representative, begins a four-year term on July 1, 2017.

The current board composition of eight trustees (four elected active member trustees, one elected retired member trustee, and three statutory trustee positions) has been in place since 1977. Since then, several stakeholder groups, including school administrators, faculty of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU), and retiree groups, have sought to increase the size of the board by adding an additional trustee member to represent their constituency. Although the legislature heard corresponding bills, no changes were adopted. 

View: TRA Board Member Representatives Since Fund Inception: August 1, 1931

 

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