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Erik Burgess, Published November 13 2012

Morrie Lanning honored in City Hall reception

MOORHEAD – When asked what it would be like to have her husband around the house more often, Ruthie Lanning cracked a wide grin and chuckled.

“I have mixed feelings,” she said through a smile.

Come January, her husband, Rep. Morrie Lanning, will no longer be a Minnesota legislator after 10 years of serving the Moorhead area. The retiring lawmaker was honored Tuesday night by the City Council, a board he served on for six years in the ’70s before becoming mayor in 1979, a position he held for 22 years.

Looking up at his old council chamber seat, Lanning told an audience of around 20 people he first sat there as a councilman – then called an alderman – in 1974, the same month his daughter Ann was born.

“So, you can see how long I’ve been at this by looking at her,” he quipped, as the crowd erupted with laughter.

The same crowd gave Lanning a standing ovation after current Mayor Mark Voxland thanked him and his wife, and presented them with a piece of art that has been hanging in the mayor’s office – a woodcut depicting Moorhead’s Rourke Art Gallery Museum. As a Republican legislator, Lanning was recognized for his advocacy on behalf of nonprofit arts.

“He was really our house go-to person to get things done, just like Keith Langseth was in the Senate,” Voxland said before the ceremony. “We were very fortunate to have two well-placed and very strong legislators.”

Voxland noted comprehensive border cities legislation and state funding for flood mitigation were some of Lanning’s greater accomplishments for Moorhead as a legislator. Lanning also played a key role in getting the new Minnesota Vikings stadium passed.

Lanning said he’s proud of what the state has been able to accomplish in his ten years as a representative, but this year, he decided running a campaign was not something he was interested in doing.

“I’m not at all burned out, but I’ve been in perpetual campaign mode for 39 years,” Lanning said. “Even though I won’t be in elected office, I still will be a very much interested citizen.”

Minnesota still faces tough times, he said, and he advised the new Democratic majority in the state Legislature to cooperate with Republicans to work through what he predicted would be another difficult upcoming session.

Lanning, who only a couple years ago mused at a possible run for governor, also left the door open to future plans, noting that he’s technically retired four times in his life.

“That should probably tell people something, that I probably don’t stay retired very long,” he said.

He said he and his wife plan on continuing to live in Moorhead at their home on Fourth Street South.

Democrat Ben Lien won Lanning’s seat – now District 4A after redistricting – in the November general election. District 4A includes Moorhead and Oakport Township.

Voxland said Langseth, DFL-Glyndon – whose vacated District 4 Senate seat was nabbed by Democrat Kent Eken in the general election – will be honored in a similar ceremony in two weeks.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Erik Burgess at (701) 241-5518

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