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5 things to know about Tina Smith, who is replacing Al Franken in the Senate

Smith was appointed to take over Al Franken's Senate seat.

It's now Tina Smith's time.

Smith, who's been serving as lieutenant governor since 2015, will take the place of Al Franken in the Senate Wednesday. She'll be sworn in at 11 a.m. central time.

“Tina Smith is a person of the highest integrity and ability," Gov. Mark Dayton said in a statement when announcing Smith as Franken's successor. "There is no one I trust more to assume the responsibilities of this important office."

With Smith and Sen. Amy Klobuchar in office, this will be the first time in Minnesota's history the state will be represented by two women in the Senate.

As she takes office, here are five things to know about Tina Smith.

1. She's lived around the country, and moved to MN for General Mills

Smith, 59 years old, was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1958. Before heading to college, she worked in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, on the Trans-Alaskan Pipeline.

Her education took her to Stanford and Dartmouth – but her biggest move came in 1984, when she accepted a marketing job with General Mills, the governor's office says. From there she started her own small business, and from 2003-06 served as vice president of Planned Parenthood of Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota

2. She's been active in Democratic circles for years

Smith's first foray into public service came in 2006, when she joined Minneapolis Mayor RT Rybak's team as chief of staff, and worked with former Gov. Tim Pawlenty following the 35W bridge collapse.

She took the same position with Dayton's office during a portion of his first term, then ran to be the state's lieutenant governor on a ticket with Dayton in 2014.

Smith has been in that position since, with stories about her rise – and her future – popping up around then.

3. She has a wide range of accomplishments

The governor's office provided a lengthy list of accomplishments Smith has been a part of during her career, ranging from education funding and opioid addiction initiatives, to clean energy and high-speed internet investments for rural Minnesota.

The office also credits her with expanding diversity in state government, with the number of nonwhite workers for the State of Minnesota going from 8 percent in 2011, to 12.3 percent today.

"Being elected Lt. Governor is like being invited into Minnesota’s living room," she said in prepared remarks. "I’ve talked to people in their homes, at their jobs, at city halls and their places of worship. We’ve talked about what worries them, what scares them and what gives them hope. I have learned a lot."

(Note: Smith won't serve as lieutenant governor anymore, and officially stepped down from that role the day before her swearing in.)

4. The Vikings stadium and Destination Medical Center

Comments and stories about Smith often bring up two significant investment projects she was key to making happen.

One was the Vikings' new stadium. A 2015 MinnPost story called her "critical" to getting the funding proposal passed, noting she worked with local sports and business leaders, as well as legislators, to make it happen.

The other is Destination Medical Center in Rochester, a $5.6 billion, 20-year project to make Rochester a global destination for medical centers. The entire thing was led by Smith, the governor's office said, and as a public-private partnership is expected to create 30,000 jobs in the area.

5. Smith will run for the Senate seat in 2018

Smith is only guaranteed to hold the seat until the results of a 2018 special election are in, and there were initially questions about whether she wanted to continue beyond that.

She put that to bed when Dayton made the announcement Dec. 13, saying Minnesotans will need to "decide for themselves" who they want to finish Franken's term (which runs until early 2021) by voting in 2018.

"I will run in that election, and I will do my best to earn Minnesotans’ support," she said. "I believe the way to do that is by being the best senator I can be."

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