Ferrazzano humbled by appointment to Fifth District Court Judge

By Per Peterson

Tracy Mayor Steve Ferrazzano was appointed Fifth District Court Judge by Gov. Mark Dayton on Thursday, meaning the mayor of Tracy will have to forgo some of the final full year of his term.

Ferrazzano will be replacing the Honorable Bradley C. Walker and will be chambered at St. James in Watonwan County.

“I feel blessed and I feel honored to be appointed by the governor to be a district court judge,” Ferrazzano said Thursday. “It’s an incredible feeling, and I look forward to continue to serve the public in that capacity. It’s very, very, very humbling.”

Ferrazzano’s term officially ends in January 2019, but since he isn’t allowed to hold two appointed or elected positions simultaneously, his term will end when he takes the bench. That date has yet to be determined.

“I wouldn’t have to stop being the mayor until I get sworn in as a judge, that’s my understanding,” he said.

The judgeship is an appointed seat for now, but once his initial appointment ends he will be up for election. In Tracy, Ferrazzano said he believes the president pro tem of the city council, Pam Cooreman, would fill in for the whatever time is left on his term.

“That would be the easiest thing to do instead of advertising again for positions,” said Ferrazzano, who told the Headlight Herald in October that he wouldn’t run for another term. He has sat in the mayor’s seat for 11 years and was a councilman for six.

“It’s been positive,” he said of his time as mayor and on the council. “When you’re the mayor — it is humbling to be in that position. To have it for the number of years I did was also humbling — that the voters thought you were doing a good enough job that you’d get re-elected.”

Besides serving as Tracy’s mayor, Ferrazzano is Assistant State Public Defender on the Public Defender Trial Team, representing indigent clients in serious felony matters.

Previously, he was an Assistant Public Defender for the Fifth Judicial District and an Associate Attorney in private practice at Nelson & Van Hon. He earned his BA from the College of New Jersey and his JD from the University of North Dakota.

Ferrazzano said his time spent on the trial team was fulfilling.

“I got a chance to go around the state, representing individual with serious felonies, so I got an opportunity to see a lot of courtrooms and the way things operated in different parts of the state,” he said. “I concentrated a lot on certain forensics issues that you normally may not have the time to do if you are a public defender in just a local area. I enjoyed the work immensely. I love being in court, so I was very satisfied with what I was doing.”

Ferrazzano serves on the board of the Sanford Tracy Hospital, the Tracy Economic Development Authority and is a member of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences.

He said being a mayor was never a responsibility he took lightly.

“Being the mayor of the town, it’s a significant responsibility,” he said. “It’s an important position. Hopefully people look favorably on my time as mayor.”

Ferrazzano, 48, said a judgeship wasn’t necessarily a goal of his, but he has given the prospect plenty of thought.

“I figured I’d give it a shot, see what happens,” he deadpanned.

Ferrazzano said he had to fill out an application for appointment, and semifinalists were then selected. After an interview in front of the judicial election committee, a group of finalists is recommended to the governor. Those finalists are then interviewed by Gov. Dayton, who makes the official appointment. Ferrazzano interviewed with Dayton on Monday.

Ferrazzano said he will commute to St. James for the time being. He and his wife, Dianne, have one son, Stephen, who is a freshman at the University of Sioux Falls.

Minnesota’s Fifth Judicial District consists of Blue Earth, Brown, Cottonwood, Faribault, Jackson, Lincoln, Lyon, Martin, Murray, Nicollet, Nobles, Pipestone, Redwood, Rock, and Watonwan counties.