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St Paul ( KROC AM News) - If you ever watch Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz on TV you have probably noticed the energetic and animated woman who has been at his side during the pandemic.

Her name is Nic Zapko and she has been serving as his American Sign Language interpreter.

During Tuesday’s news conference about expanding the state’s COVID vaccination program, Walz caught her by surprise by proclaiming the day "Nic Zapko Day" in honor of her birthday.

He also recognized her for her hard work during the past year, appearing at hundreds of news conferences.

“I am happy to declare today as Nic Zapko day in Minnesota. Nic is an American Sign Language interpreter who has been by my side the last year—ensuring Minnesotans have accurate and timely information on COVID-19 every step of the way. Thank you.”

Walz called Zapka, “By far, the most popular person on this podium” and noted she has become a familiar figure around the country and the world.

Walz said her work has been welcome to the 20-percent of Minnesotans who identify as deaf, deaf-blind, or hard of hearing.

News update: Minnesota State Patrol reports a deadly motorcycle accident, apparently the first of the year.

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