Zerwas captures open House seat; Kiffmeyer gets nod for Senate

•Click here to read about Mary Kiffmeyer’s victory in a race for an open Senate seat.

by Joni Astrup

Associate editor

Nick Zerwas has clinched an open seat in the Minnesota House of Representatives.

The Republican from Elk River defeated DFLer Holly Neuman of Big Lake, 12,724 (64 percent) to 7,217 (36 percent).

“I’m absolutely honored and excited,” said Zerwas, who is currently a member of the Elk River City Council.

Nick Zerwas
Holly Neuman

It’s a particularly poignant moment for him, his family and friends, as he was born with a congenital heart defect and initially not expected to live past the age of 7.

“If you go back 17 years to when I was waiting for my heart transplant, I had difficulty walking a hundred feet,” Zerwas said election night. “This summer I knocked on 7,000 doors — I door knocked half the district on my own.”

Now 32, Zerwas was on the list for a heart transplant in the mid-1990s but ended up having surgery instead — his 10th — and is in good health today. He details his life story in “The Gift of an Open Heart,” an autobiography he wrote in 2005. He still travels and does motivational speaking, talking about living each day to the fullest.

“It’s the reality of knowing that life — as difficult as it is and as many challenges as you have — is always full of opportunity,” Zerwas said.

His mom and dad, Chris and Tom Zerwas, were at the election night party at the Friendly Buffalo in Big Lake and said they are proud of their son.

“He turned into a wonderful young man with good ethics and principles and integrity. I’d be proud of him no matter what he was doing,” his mother said.

As the new state representative, Zerwas will represent House District 30A, which includes the Elk River-Big Lake area.

“I could not have done this without the support of my family, without the amazing support of my wife, Julie, and without the advice and the counsel of Mary Kiffmeyer. I’m so grateful for that support,” Zerwas said.

He said he hopes he can accurately represent the residents of the district and promised to be “absolutely accessible” to constituents.

“My door will always be open and I’m here to listen and to serve,” he said. “I hope that in those two years I can be an effective representative for our area.”

Zerwas said he learned about public service from his dad, who was Elk River’s police chief before retiring in 2003.

A 1999 graduate of Elk River High School and a 2003 graduate of Hamline University in St. Paul, Zerwas has a bachelor’s degree in biology and a certificate in forensic science. He has worked as a forensic scientist for the Anoka County Sheriff’s Office and for Target.

He was first elected to the Elk River City Council in 2006 and re-elected in 2010.

Neuman was born and raised in Monticello and studied graphic arts at Hennepin Technical College.

Together she and her husband, Dan, have five daughters and three grandchildren and live in Big Lake.

Neuman and her mother, Joan Bondhus, own Pedal Inn Antiques in Becker.