Updated: 06/27/2014 6:13 PM
Created: 06/27/2014 5:50 PM WDIO.com
By: Briggs LeSavage
Northlanders had a chance to honor the late Congressman Jim Oberstar at a memorial service in Duluth Friday.
About 150 people gathered in the Harborside Ballroom in the Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center, many of whom reside in the state’s 8th District, where Oberstar served for 36 years. Governor Mark Dayton, Senators Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar and U.S. Representative Rick Nolan were among the 10 speakers who shared memories and stories they had of Oberstar. Duluth Mayor Don Ness worked for Oberstar for 10 years and said he was a man of public service.
“Working for Jim Oberstar, you are acutely aware of the fact that he was a powerful force in shaping our nation’s future, and you were equally aware of how much he cared for you as a person,” Ness said. “That’s a special combination.”
Ness grew close with Oberstar and said he invited him to his home for dinner many times. He even named his son after the late congressman because of what he called Oberstar’s strong contributions to the community and Northeastern Minnesota.
“I believe that Jim Oberstar has made the most significant impact in Northeastern Minnesota of any elected leader in our region's history,” Ness said.
Alan Netland, who worked alongside Oberstar as a Democratic Farmer Labor party activist and labor union leader, echoed Ness’ sentiments, saying he was respected across party lines as well.
“He also was able to works across the aisle with republicans in order to get infrastructure jobs done all over the country,” Netland said. ”So he really did put the 8th District on the map, because everybody had to work through Jim.”
Archie Chelseth said he first met the congressman 47 years ago when he worked on the governor’s staff and said Oberstar was proud of his Iron Range heritage, using that to fuel his work in congress.
“He obviously helped fund a lot of important projects over the years and made sure that the district was treated fairly in terms of federal monies,” Chelseth said. “He was a great champion for northeastern Minnesota.”
Minnesota congressional member introduced a bill yesterday that would rename the Chisholm Post Office and portions of Highways 35 and 61 in Oberstar’s memory.
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