Tech government relations VP retiring after 25 years

HOUGHTON – On June 30, Dale Tahtinen will be retiring from Michigan Technological University after 25 years, and in that time he’s seen a lot of positive changes at the university.

Tahtinen, who is Tech vice president for governmental relations, and secretary of the Tech Board of Trustees, said his decision to retire had much to do with his age.

“I’m over 70 years old,” he said. “I think it’s time.”

Tahtinen said he’s worked with three Tech presidents in his time at the university, Dale Stein, Curt Tompkins, and current President Glenn Mroz.

As with many universities, Tahtinen said financial issues have affected Tech for quite awhile.

“Everyone always faces financial challenges,” he said. “There’s never enough money for things that need to be done.”

However, Tahtinen said there have been members of Congress and the Michigan Legislature who have been helpful in getting federal and state money for the university, but more federal money would be helpful.

“We have been a research university for years,” he said.

Of the federal dollars Tech does receive, Tahtinen said about 95 percent has been used as it was supposed to be used, which isn’t always the case with other universities.

“Michigan Tech has always exceeded what we promised for the earmarks,” he said. “Once you demonstrate how excellent you are, the more competitive you could be (seeking funds).”

In a written statement from Tech it was announced state relations will be conducted by John Lehman, and federal relations will be conducted by Brent Burns.

In the written statement, Mroz wrote about the importance of university representatives working with people in state and federal government.

“(Government relations are) about bringing together the talents of our faculty and staff with the vision and goals of our partners in Lansing, Washington, D.C., the business community, and a wide array of nonprofit institutions and non-governmental organizations,” Mroz wrote. “The long lead time (more than a year) Dale has given us is a gift to make sure that transition of our relationships is as effective as possible.”

Tahtinen said the research done at Tech needs to continue because much of it is basic.

“Basic research is so important,” he said. “You don’t know what the outcome is going to be.”

In the future, Tahtinen said funding issues will continue to be important for Tech.

“As state funding decreases, we have to continue to get more private and foundation donations,” he said. “That’s going to be more important in the future.”

With the change to term limits in the Legislature, Tahtinen said there has been a change in how the state funds universities. Before term limits, legislators were more inclined to maintain or increase funding for universities.

“You can see the difference,” he said.

Despite that, Tahtinen said the legislators for the Upper Peninsula have been responsive to the funding needs of Tech.

He’s leaving Tech with a positive attitude about it’s future, Tahtinen said.

“I think the future is very bright,” he said. “More and more (research) will take place.”