Reflecting on David Dill and his importance to Minnesota’s hunters and anglers

Earlier this year, I called Rep. Tom Hackbarth to ask about a $25 million proposal to use state bond proceeds to built a shooting complex in the metro area. We spoke for a little bit before Hackbarth, a Republican, told me I’d better also check in with Rep. David Dill.

After all, though Hackbarth was carrying the bill, it was Dill’s “brainchild,” Hackbarth said.

It’s not often you have a lawmaker of one party telling you to call a lawmaker of another party (unless it’s one of those sarcastic, “I don’t know why that idiot supports that – call and ask him.”). But it’s telling about the way Dill, who passed away far too young at age 60 last week, approached his legislative business.

Dill, a DFLer from Crane Lake, was perhaps the least partisan lawmaker with whom I’ve ever interacted. The shooting range example is just one of many that illustrates his penchant for successfully working across the aisle. He represented his district, to be sure, but he was also passionate about bringing new people  into the outdoor fold. A shooting complex in the metro area would be about five hours away from his home in Crane Lake – and far outside his legislative district – but he recognized the importance of providing access to shoot everywhere in the state. 

A quick aside: If and when the metro shooting complex comes to fruition, it should bear Dill’s name as a memorial to his service to the state.

Another aspect of Dill that set him apart from so many other lawmakers is you always knew where he stood. He had conviction in his beliefs, and they often ran counter to his party’s official line. And though he was a huge proponent of hunting and angling issues, he wasn’t exactly a strong supporter of adding more public lands.

Dill was a vital, though somewhat behind the scenes, player in the creation of the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council, which makes recommendations to the Legislature on how to spend money from the Outdoor Heritage Fund. It was his amendment to a game and fish bill that created the council. Dill had been chosen earlier this year to serve on the council for the first time.

Most of my interactions with Dill were on legislative matters, but he was a family man, first and foremost. According to the Mesabi Daily News, “His pride and affection of family was at the core of his DNA.”

David Dill, very simply, was a good man and he’ll be greatly missed many people. A memorial service for Dill is set for Saturday, Aug. 15, at the Backus Community Center in International Falls.

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