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Barbara Sipson, Published January 01 2013

Letter: Two dedicated men end years of service in office

The beginning of the new year is the perfect time to thank two dedicated men whose combined 70 years of elected service to Moorhead residents will be coming to an end.

When the roll is taken at noon next Tuesday for the Minnesota Senate’s opening session, the name Keith Langseth won’t be called for the first time in 32 years. The beginning of the session brings an end to Langseth’s 34 years of elected public service. In addition to the 32 years in the Senate – making him the longest-serving senator when he decided not to run for re-election – he also served two years in the Minnesota House.

And on the Minnesota House side, the name of Morrie Lanning will be missing for the first time in eight years. Lanning is concluding an elected public service career that spanned 36 years, including 24 years as Moorhead mayor and four years before that as an alderman.

Through their years of public service, these two very committed individuals from opposite sides of the political fence have played major roles in maintaining Moorhead as a vibrant and growing segment of the metropolitan Fargo-Moorhead community.

Flood work

For Langseth, this most recently has meant focusing on ensuring that Moorhead properties and infrastructure are protected from the devastating floods that began challenging the city in 1997. In his 10 years as the powerful chairman of the Senate Capital Investment (bonding) Committee, he crafted budgets that provided millions of dollars that were used to build permanent dikes and flood gates, to buy continually threatened homes and clear the land and to move and protect utilities.

The efforts have been so successful that the hundreds of thousands of sandbags that were once part of a spring ritual in Moorhead are no longer required.


The senator is also well-known for his ongoing support of post-secondary education, which has resulted in new facilities and programs at Minnesota State University Moorhead and M State. Because of the respect in which he was held, the power he garnered and his ability to work with people on both sides of the aisle, Langseth was able to convey the need and gather the support necessary to meet the ever-growing educational demands of the area.

As Langseth has said of his role as chairman of the Capital Investment Committee, “I am very fair when considering projects throughout the state, but when it comes to Moorhead, I am just a little bit fairer.”

Lanning’s role

For the past 10 years, the work of Langseth has been enhanced and expanded upon by Lanning’s work in the Minnesota House. Lanning brought his 24 years of experience as Moorhead’s mayor to the Legislature to help create and support legislation designed to meet specific needs of Greater Minnesota communities and businesses.

One outstanding example is the Border Cities legislation. As a legislator, Lanning nurtured the growth and development of the Border Cities program, which was initiated through his leadership when he was Moorhead’s mayor.

Other good work

Lesser known about the two men is the influential roles both played in the creation and operation of projects and programs designed to improve the lives of lower-income people in the Moorhead community. Because both men strongly support the concept that individuals and families must be housed before they can cope with other challenges they are facing, both worked to ensure that funding was available for housing and housing programs.

I will always cherish a memory from a time when we were showing the local legislators through one of the completed townhomes the Clay County Housing and Redevelopment Authority had built utilizing state funds made available through the work of the Capital Investment committees. A toddler with curly black hair, being held by her mother while we showed their unit, reached out and wrapped her little hand around Langseth’s big farmwork-worn finger and gave him a shy smile. He responded with his best grandfather grin – and it doesn’t get much better than that.

Thanks, guys

In this era of such political divisiveness and distrust, these two men from diverse backgrounds and differing political parties stand out as individuals who epitomize the very best of what politicians can and should be. The work of their political lives should serve as models for those aspiring to pursue elected office.

So, thanks, guys. It has been a privilege and honor to work with both of you over the years.

Sipson is former member, Moorhead City Council, and current board member,

Clay County Housing and Redevelopment Authority.