Crowd gathers in St. Paul to celebrate 80 years of Bob Lessard

A healthy, bipartisan (maybe tri-partisan) crowd turned out
Wednesday evening to mark the 80th birthday of the Old Trapper
himself, Bob Lessard. Attendees included leaders of state
conservation groups, DNR staffers, Bob’s family, buddies like Bud
Grant, and politicians such as Gov. Mark Dayton and former state
senators Roger Moe and Jane Krentz.

The 2010 Outdoor News Man of the Year, Lessard appeared
genuinely surprised and moved at the turnout for him at the Kelly
Inn in St. Paul. Somehow between the many dozens of people trying
to shake his hand, I got 20 seconds with Bob, and he commented how
many people were present that he hadn’t seen in years. Yeah, they
turned out for their old friend and warrior, and there were
Republicans and Democrats all smiling together, despite the
legislative gridlock just a couple blocks away.

A state senator from International Falls from 1977 to 2002,
Lessard chaired the important Environment and Natural Resources
Committee for many years. He’s remained active on the outdoors
scene, including lobbying for the Legacy Funding amendment, and now
serves as a community outreach liaison for the DNR. Always a bit of
a maverick legislator, Bob switched to Independent status (from
DFL) in July 2000. After his party switch he did not caucus with
either the Democratic-Farmer-Labor party or the Republican
party.

At the reception, it was good to see folks who’d worked for Bob
years ago. Geno Fragnito is now director of government relations
for the Minnesota Society of CPAs, but I remember the late 1990s
when Geno – as environment committee administrator – worked his
tail off keeping Bob focused and organized. There are many people
who still remember the often frazzling grind working with Lessard,
but they were all smiling last night.

Straight-talking Lessard has offended a few people over the
years, but it’s amazing how many people his personality and drive
have brought together, too. Here’s hoping the sign on the wall:
“Welcome to the 1st Annual Bob Lessard 80th Birthday Party” holds
true, and there are many more birthdays for Bob to come.

 

Categories: Rob Drieslein

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