MPELRA History

The History of

Minnesota Public Employer Labor Relations Association




Minnesota Public Employer Labor Relations Association (MPELRA) was formed in 1980 to provide a voice for public sector management in response to efforts to change the Minnesota Public Employment Labor Relations Act, adopted in 1972.  The organization expanded its focus to include information sharing, networking and educational programs.

A steering committee formed MPELRA.  Its members were:

Peter Bergstrom         General Counsel, MN Association of Counties

David Bergsven           Personnel and Labor Relations Director, MN Dept of Education

Jack Davis                    Personnel and Labor Relations Director, MN Dept of Transportation

David Dombrowski      Manager of Labor & Legislative Affairs, Metropolitan Airports Commission

Tom Dudley                 Personnel Director, Hennepin County

Jim Geissner                City Administrator, City of St Peter

Andrea Kircher            Special Assistant to the Attorney General, State of Minnesota

Elmer Malinen            City Administrator, City of St Cloud

Ken Robbins                Director of Business Services, Metropolitan Waste Control Commission

Earl Schlitz                   Employee Relations Manager, City of Duluth

Cy Smythe                   Consultant, Labor Relations Associates

Terry Sullivan              General Counsel, City of St Paul

Rollie Toenges             Labor Relations Director, Hennepin County

Fred Wagner               Personnel Director, City of Rochester

W. A. Wettergren       Executive Secretary, MN School Boards Association

In 1980, MPELRA received a grant of $5,600 from the International Personnel Management Advisory Council.  This grant was used to lay the foundation for MPELRA.   

MPELRA’s original mission was the following:

    To provide a means for developing and maintaining the highest standards of professionalism and excellence in public sector labor relations.
  •   To provide education and training for Minnesota public sector labor relations professionals.
    To provide current information on negotiations, mediation, arbitration and legislation.
    To foster cooperation among members, including sponsoring meetings, workshops and seminars.
    To establish a common understanding of governmental positions being developed for presentation to the State Legislature.

Interim officers and a board of directors were installed.  The organization filed Articles of Incorporation with the Secretary of State.   The interim and ultimately charter officers were David Dombrowski, President; Fred Wagner, Vice President; Earl Schlitz, Second Vice President; Ken Huber, Secretary; and David Bergsven, Treasurer.  The original Board of Directors included: Jim Geissner, Rollie Toenges, Elmer Malilnen and Ken Robbins.  Terry Sullivan was appointed General Counsel.

A charter conference was held on November 14, 1980.  Ninety-two members attended the MPELRA charter meeting and conference.  Officers and board members were elected and the By-Laws were ratified.   In 1981 MPELRA held its second conference in St Cloud.  On October 16, 1981 an agreement between NPELRA and MPELRA granted chapter status to MPELRA.  MPELRA members were granted automatic membership in NPELRA.  

The membership grew from 52 original members in 1980, to 77 in 1981 and to 84 in 1982.  As of January 2009, there are over 176 members.

 Past Presidents of MPELRA

1981        David Dombrowski

1982        Fred Wagner

1983        David Bergsven

1984        Ken Huber

1985        Sue Richards

1986        Mike Hulette

1987        Morgan Pascoe

1988        Joyce Twistol

1989        David Werts

1990        David Griffin

1991        Denise Legato

1992        Brian Brown

1993        Jan Peterson

1994        Rise’ Kohlmeyer

1995        Dave Clark

1996        John Erickson

1997        Bill Hunt

1998        Linda Skallman

1999        Jim Laumeyer

2000        Dale Ignatius

2001        Melanie Ault

2002        Irene Koski

2003        Jeanette Sobania

2004        Sherrie Le

2005        Angela Nalezny

2006        Angela Nalezny

2007        Timothy Comstock

2008        Timothy Comstock

2009        Dave Mueller

Seven MPELRA members have served on the NPELRA Board of Directors: Jim Geissner (also NPELRA President for 1983-84), Betty Thornburg, Peter Obermeyer, Nancy Arneson-McClure, Fred Wagner, David Dombrowski, Sherrie Le and Melanie Ault.  Robert Bruce was an NPELRA Charter member. Roger Dahl, originally from Minnesota, was the NPELRA Executive Director for many years and Secretary-Treasurer for the first NPELRA Board.

Four MPELRA members have been awarded the NPELRA Award of Excellence: Rollie Toenges, Jim Geissner, Irene Koski and Jeanette Sobania.  Jim Geissner also received the President's Award.  MPELRA members and organizations who have won the NPELRA Pacesetter Award:   Jim McKane, Melanie Ault and Mn/DOT’s Human Resources Division.

The first MPELRA Award of Excellence in Labor Relations was given to Paul Larson in February, 2009.