Top politicians win top county posts

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Senior politicians in Norway don’t simply retire or fade away. They often re-emerge as county governors. That’s what’s happened with two top pols who left their elected posts last fall, one by choice, the other because he had to.

Lars Sponheim PHOTO: Venstre

Lars Sponheim, a longtime Member of Parliament and former government minister, was forced out of office when his small Liberal Party (Venstre) lost badly in last fall’s election. He resigned as Venstre leader and left the parliament, returning to his much-publicized sheep ranch in the mountains of western Norway.

He quickly was given a post, though, as a director of the state lottery system. After being in the political limelight for years, he also applied for the sought-after post as county governor (fylkesmann) for Hordaland.

Veteran politicians like Sponheim often are granted the prestigious and secure posts as county administrator, which they can hold until retirement. In Sponheim’s case, though, there were some doubts because of his record as a loud, often arrogant politician who dominated a party rife with conflict. A new unauthorized biography released last month revealed an unflattering portrait of Sponheim that some political commentators thought would doom his chances.

It didn’t, and Norway’s left-center government even bypassed one of their “own” candidates, Labour Party veteran Reidar Sandal, to give Sponheim the post.

Erling Lae PHOTO: Høyre

Crossing party lines
They also crossed party lines to grant the post of county governor for Vestfold to the popular former leader of Oslo’s city government, Erling Lae of the Conservatives.

Lae resigned his top city post last fall by his own choice, saying nine years was enough. He was keen on the job in Vestfold, and has said he would move from Oslo to Tønsberg if he got it.

That’s likely what he’ll be doing now. The appointments were to be formally announced Friday afternoon by government minister Rigmor Aasrud.

By Views and News staff