By the people: Elected officials say which politicians inspired them

Published 11:11 am Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Tribune asked elected officials a question: “What politician inspired you when you were in high school?” Here are their replies:


“When I was in high school, my mind was not on politics very much of the time, but I do remember Henry Kissinger being in the news as the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize and serving as secretary of state. When I think of him, I am struck by his intelligence, thoughtfulness and commitment to peace efforts around the world.”

– Pat Martinson, Freeborn County auditor-treasurer


“I am actually related to President James Garfield on my mother’s side of the family, so I have looked at his life and brief term as president. He sought to reform government and eliminate corruption, which I believe most members of the public then as well as now would find to be worthwhile pursuits. So I find it somewhat ironic that he was shot by a rejected and disillusioned federal office seeker. Perhaps that is one example to explain why we have more politicians and fewer statesmen.”

— Kelly Callahan,
Freeborn County recorder


“I remember seeing Hubert Humphrey at the Freeborn County Fair. He wasn’t sitting behind a booth but instead was out walking throughout the fairgrounds talking with the people listening to their views and concerns. Looking back I feel that I was taught a valuable lesson that day, in that if I want to represent the people I need to be out listening to the people so that I am representing them to the best of my ability.”

—Mike Lee, Freeborn County commissioner  for District 5


“I was a child of the 1960s growing up in Freeborn County and graduating from Alden-Conger High school. The political world of the ’60s was a time of great turmoil with global and social change leading to conflict, and several national leaders I admired came from Minnesota:  (Hubert) Humphrey, (Orville) Freeman and Roy Wilkins.

“However, it was Minnesota Gov. Elmer L. Anderson’s  personal values that I appreciated and have come to value, more and more, as I followed his nonpolitical accomplishments until he died at age 95 in 2004. He was Minnesota governor from January 1961 to March 1963, losing re-election to Carl Rolvaag by 91 votes. He called himself a liberal Republican. He believed in public service, the value of government, compromise that accomplished goals and helped people, and disagreement did not mean conversation, thinking, respect or friendship had to end. He was a corporate executive, newspaper owner and conservationist — a father of Voyageurs National Park. He said, ‘We’ve gone way overboard in thinking taxes are evil, or that government is flagrantly wasteful. Taxes are the way people can join hands to get good things done.’ He was hard-working, pragmatic and realistic.”

— Craig Nelson, Freeborn County attorney


“I looked up to Hubert Humphrey because he cared for all people, not just the people he was serving.” — Larry Baker, Albert Lea councilor for Ward 2


“I looked up to (John F.) Kennedy when I was just out of high school. I was a political junkie. I watched all of the debates. I once stood up a date to watch a Kennedy speech. He has always interested me the most.”

— Shannon Savick, House District 27A representative


“I was in kindergarten when JFK died. I remember hearing him say, ‘Ask not what your country can do for you but ask what you can do for your country.’ That always stuck with me.”

— Larry Anderson, Albert Lea councilor for Ward 5 


“JFK. ‘Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country.’ This is what was instilled in me from my childhood. It’s what still burns in my heart today.”

— George Marin, Albert Lea councilor for Ward 3