col No one ever had a better boss or mentor

By Chris Batchelder

With the death of Elmer L. Andersen, we have lost an individual who has had more impact on our state than perhaps any other one individual in Minnesota's past or future.

He was a most unusual, talented, committed, and caring individual with a record of many years of private and public service. He was business entrepreneur, a public officeholder at several levels, a promoter of ideals, policies and ideas that most others believed were impossible to achieve. Elmer had a personal commitment to help others, and he did it all without seeking any special recognition for himself.

I first met Elmer when I was an undergraduate at the University of Minnesota. I was active in college Republican activities, and Elmer was a member of the Minnesota Senate. Although I finished college and went into graduate school, I continued to maintain a friendship with him. In the summer of 1959, 1 called him and asked "Elmer, are you thinking about running for governor?" He replied, "Chris, I am giving it some thought, but I have not made a decision." I then responded, "If you decide to run for governor, I would like to serve on your campaign staff." He told me that he would let me know once he had made his decision. Early that fall he called and said, "Chris, I have decided to run for the position of governor for Minnesota, and I would like to have you work on my campaign staff."

Thus began an even closer relationship. I did work on his campaign staff from September of 1959 through his successful election to the governorship in November of 1960. No one ever had a better "boss" or mentor. Following the election, he asked if I would continue on his staff as he put his administration together and I agreed.


Following Gov. Andersen's inauguration in January 1961, I worked on the governor's staff in the Capitol. It was a most rewarding and satisfying opportunity. However, I had an obligation as a result of going through ROTC to go on active duty in the Army for two years beginning in June of 1961. When I left the governor's staff, I fully expected that Gov. Andersen would be re-elected in 1962 and that I would have the opportunity to return as a member of his staff following my discharge from the Army. Most regrettably for the people of Minnesota and for myself, he was defeated by 92 votes in that election.

Elmer Andersen had so many special personal characteristics and talents. As a successful businessman, he set an example for social and community responsibility among corporate leadership in Minnesota. He was an honorable and effective public servant, both in the Legislature and as governor; he was a farmer, the owner of a group of suburban newspapers and a person with a broad set of interests that caused him to continue to serve the people of Minnesota long after he left the governor's office in 1963 and until his failing health limited his activities.

As a private citizen, the list of his accomplishments and those he helped others to accomplish is significant. Elmer led the campaign for the amendment to the state Constitution that enabled the creation of the taconite industry, and he helped create Voyageurs National Park. He gave significant service to the University of Minnesota and to higher education as a university Regent, helped establish the Andersen Library on the campus of the University of Minnesota with his donation of 12,000 books and promoted the strengthening and expansion of the Minnesota Historical Society. All of this, he did following his service as governor.

Another of his talents was writing, and with the help of Lori Sturdevant, wrote two books, both classics. The first, "Elmer L. Andersen, A Man's Reach," copyrighted in 2000, and the second, "I Trust to Be Believed," published in 2004. That book was dedicated "To the people of Minnesota who have given me opportunities for growth, development, and service for more than 75 years."

Elmer L. Andersen's high degree of sensitivity and caring for other people, his commitment to serve, his ability to share, and his unwillingness to stop doing any of these activities made him a very remarkable person. It was indeed a privilege for me to work with him and know him as a friend for so many years. I will miss him.

Chris Batchelder, of Rochester, is a retired Mayo Foundation administrator.

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