Two longtime lawmakers die

RETIRED OTTER TAIL AREA LEGISLATOR ANDERSON WAS A POLITICAL INDEPENDENT A 20-year legislator, who served most of Otter Tail County with a bipartisan, independent mind, died last week. From 1976 to 1996, politically moderate Robert Anderson switch...


A 20-year legislator, who served most of Otter Tail County with a bipartisan, independent mind, died last week.

From 1976 to 1996, politically moderate Robert Anderson switched parties from Republican to Democrat, but all the while keeping the focus on his district.

"Bob was quite influential," recalled former legislator and current Otter Tail County Commissioner Syd Nelson, who served with Anderson from 1990 to 1994. "He was very independent, even when he was a Republican...He always voted what was best for the people of his district, and for what was the right thing to do."

Even after he switched parties in the early 1990's, he continued with an independent approach. But he found a permanent home with the Democratic party, serving in various capacities with the DFL since he retired from the legislature in 1996.


"He was good from both sides of the aisle," recalled Nelson. "He wasn't boisterous, he got along well with people."

Anderson served District 10A and later 10B, as the boundaries were re-drawn.

Anderson died from pancreatic cancer October 25, in his home on Otter Tail Lake under the care of his wife, Janet, and Hospice of the Red River Valley.

Funeral services were October 30, at St. Ann's Catholic Church in Wadena, with Fr. Don Wagner officiating. Interment is in Calvary Cemetery in Wadena.

Military honors were afforded by members of Rasmussen-Schedowski VFW Post #4020 in Perham.

Anderson was born in Wadena on January 16, 1932 the son of Alfred E. and Frances A. (Hassler) Anderson. He attended St. Ann's Catholic Elementary School in Wadena and graduated from St. Thomas Military Academy in St. Paul, MN. After serving as a Corporal in the US Army during the Korean War, Bob earned a Bachelor's degree in finance from the University of Miami, FL.

Bob and Janet L. Hemquist, married on August 3, 1967, andmade their home on Ottertail Lake. Bob is survived by his wife, Janet; nephews Michael Anderson and Andrew Anderson, both of Bellingham, WA; and numerous cousins. He was preceded in death by his parents and his brothers Gerald T. Anderson and David J. Anderson.

From 1965 - 1976, Bob and his brothers operated the Chalet Chanticleer Restaurant on Ottertail Lake and Bob was involved with private investigative work and with tourist promotion for greater Minnesota.


Public service in the Minnesota House of Representatives for ten terms was the highlight of Bob's professional career. In addition to serving on many legislative conference committees, he served on the House Appropriations, Commerce Ethics, Local Government and Metropolitan Affairs committees, chaired the Health and Human Services and Consumer Protection and Tourism Committees, and served on the executive committee of the National Conference of State Legislatures.

In 1996 Bob was honored to attend the United States Army War College in PA. The establishment of the Fergus Falls Veteran's Home, Glendalough State Park, and the Prairie Wetlands Learning Center are projects he was especially proud of.

Following his retirement from the legislature, Bob's public service continued as: current Chair of the West Central Emergency Medical Services board, Chair of the Senate District 10 DFL Committee, and active member of the DFL State Central Committee. Locally, Bob enjoyed serving on the Board of Directors of the Friends of the History Museum of East Otter Tail County.


Eighty-one-year-old Commissioner of Otter Tail County, Malcolm Lee was killed in a car crash north of Fergus Falls on Sunday morning, October 29.

After spending the past 16 years serving as the county commissioner, he had decided not to run for re-election this year. Lee had recently suffered some health problems and underwent kidney dialysis.

A Pelican Rapids resident, Lee also served as a pilot during World War II.

"Malcolm was just a great guy," said County Coordinator Larry Krohn. "He was so dedicated to the environment."


"We got along good," said County Board Commissioner Syd Nelson "We had our differences. But we never got into a quarrel for the 30 years we knew each other."

Lee became Otter Tail County's first planning and zoning director in 1971 and hired Krohn to join the department in 1977.

With his zoning background, "he brought a lot to the table" as far as environmental and lakeshore issues, said Nelson.

"Malcolm was in my office on Friday afternoon," said Krohn, who became the county coordinator in 1981. "We talked about how the county was doing.

"He served well. We're all going to miss him."

Last February, Lee cast the lone dissenting vote on a large housing development project known as Fish Lake. He said the 209-unit Preserve at Echo Bay went against the spirit of the county's shore land ordinance, which aims to control overcrowding on lakes.

"He had a wealth of knowledge, especially in shoreline areas," said Commissioner Dennis Mosher, a seven-year veteran of the board.

The Otter Tail County Sheriff's Department said Lee was driving north on County Road 88 north of Fergus Falls when his 2000 Buick left the road and struck a power pole and telephone junction box.


The Sheriff's Department responded to the crash at 11:15 a.m. Sunday. No other details were available.

"It's terrible this happened. He was only two months from retirement from the board," said Nelson.

Sheriff Brian Schlueter said he didn't know Lee personally, but his dealings with the commissioner were positive.

"He always was a strong supporter of law enforcement," Schlueter said. "He was just a great guy."

Syd Nelson's last contact with Lee was a bittersweet moment.

"When I left the county board meeting last week, I walked up to him when it was time to leave. I put my hand on his shoulder--something I've never really done before--and said 'you take care Mac.' That was the last time we had contact."

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