Monday, December 04, 2006

Harold Windingstad

Looking around the blogosphere, we were lacking a discussion of an unfortunate event that recently occurred. Harold Windingstad, a long time DFLer, passed away at the age of 77.

This past fall, I had the opportunity to attend the Windingstad open in Willmar, a celebration of DFL events and a tribute to a party visionary.

I unfortunately never met the man. But I remember the stories very well. Elected leaders, friends, family and many others shared countless stories of the man and what he did for Minnesotans!

I'll leave it to the professionals at the Startibune on this one.

Harold Windingstad, farmer, DFL leader

Party leaders depended on his uncanny sense of his community and put that knowledge to work as they defined campaign strategies and reached out to voters.

Ben Cohen, Star Tribune
Last update: November 23, 2006 – 9:17 PM

Although Harold Windingstad lived his entire life on his family's farm in Lac Qui Parle County, his reach extended to farmers and DFL leaders across Minnesota.
Windingstad of Providence Township near Dawson was the man DFL political candidates went to for advice and fundraising help in western Minnesota.

He died of cancer Saturday in Clarkfield. He was 77.

Whether helping candidates as DFL chairman of southwestern Minnesota's Second Congressional District or serving as the local leader of the Minnesota Farmers Union, Windingstad had an uncanny sense of his community, said Doug Peterson, a former legislator who now leads the state Farmers Union from its headquarters in Roseville.

"He had the ability to talk to people at a very common level. He was very smart and he knew how to approach people. He had his pulse on the stuff that was happening locally and could relate it to what's happening in the state," said Peterson.

Windingstad often solicited contributions for political and charitable causes. "If you saw him coming, you would start to get out your checkbook," Peterson said.

Windingstad could be counted on, he said, regardless of whether it was a neighbor who needed help clearing snow after a blizzard or a decision needing to be made at the Farmers Union.

"When he showed up, you knew things would get done right," Peterson said.

Attorney General Mike Hatch said Windingstad was the person to whom DFL office-seekers went when they wanted to take the pulse of the state.

"He represented the best tradition of populism," Hatch said.

When Windingstad met presidential candidate Jimmy Carter at a national event, he was asked what he thought of the Georgia governor.

Windingstad's response: "Looks like a nice young man. He might go someplace," Hatch reported.

Windingstad was a delegate to two Democratic national conventions. He is credited with helping the Minnesota delegation come together after Carter won the endorsement in 1976.

Warren Spannaus, who was Minnesota attorney general from 1971 to 1982, said Windingstad was "very intelligent" and "always dependable."He was the kind of guy who made you feel good about being a candidate," said Spannaus.

Windingstad served four terms on the Minnesota Board on Aging, among many community leadership positions.

With his wife, Dolores, he received the inaugural Minnesota Farmers Union Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005. In 1987 he won the Hubert Humphrey Award for his dedication and leadership in the DFL Party.

He is survived by his wife. Services have been held.

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