Arlen Erdahl

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Arlen Erdahl
Arlen Erdahl at U.S. Capitol, 2010.jpg
Arlen Erdahl at U.S. Capitol, 2010
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Minnesota's 1st district
In office
January 3, 1979 – January 3, 1983
Preceded by Al Quie
Succeeded by Tim Penny
18th Minnesota Secretary of State
In office
1971–1975
Preceded by Joseph L. Donovan
Succeeded by Joan Growe
Personal details
Born (1931-02-27) February 27, 1931 (age 83)
Blue Earth, Minnesota
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Ellen Syrdal Erdahl
Religion Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Arlen Ingolf Erdahl (born February 27, 1931) served as a member of the Minnesota House of Representatives from 1963 to 1970, Minnesota Secretary of State from 1971–1975 and was a U.S. Representative from Minnesota, serving the first district from 1979–1983, in the 96th and 97th congresses.[1]

He had Presidential appointments to serve as Country Director and later Associate Director for the Peace Corps from 1983 to 1989 and as Principal Deputy/Acting Assistant Secretary for International Affairs at the U.S. Department of Energy from 1989 to 1993. He has served on the boards of the United Nations Association of Minnesota, Nobel Peace Prize Forum, Minnesota chapter of People to People, Minneapolis Lodge of the Sons of Norway and Growth & Justice. In 1999 he received the Twin Cities International Citizen Award and in 2011 was recognized for his public leadership and service with the Hubert H. Humphrey Public Leadership Award by the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota.[2]

Background[edit]

Arlen Ingolf Erdahl was born in Blue Earth, Faribault County, Minnesota. He attended Faribault County public schools. He graduated from St. Olaf College (B.A. 1953) and Harvard University (M.P.A., 1966). He served in United States Army from 1954–1956.

Political career[edit]

Erdahl began his long career in elected public service in 1962 when he was elected to the Minnesota State Legislature, where he served for eight years. During this time, he became one of the four original Bush Foundation Fellows, earning a Masters Degree in Public Administration from Harvard University and serving as a Congressional Fellow in the offices Senator Mark Hatfield (R-OR) and future President Gerald Ford (R-MI), who at that time was Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, both of whom became lifelong friends and mentors.

Erdahl was elected Minnesota Secretary of State in 1970, appointed by Governor Wendell Anderson to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission in 1975 and elected to Congress from Minnesota’s First Congressional district in 1978. He had presidential appointments in leadership roles in the Peace Corps, first as Country Director in Jamaica in 1983 and then as Associate Director of the Peace Corps in Washington, D.C. in 1986. He received another Presidential appointment in 1989 to serve as Principal Deputy/Acting Assistant Secretary for International Affairs at the U.S. Department of Energy. He is honored and grateful to have served either in Congress or Presidential appointments under the administrations of Presidents Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. Erdahl returned to Minnesota in 1993 and served as the Executive Director of Minnesota International Health Volunteers, a nonprofit organization that focuses on improving health of women, children and their communities around the world. In “retirement,” Erdahl has continued his public service and leadership for the United Nations Association of Minnesota, Nobel Peace Prize Forum Executive Committee, Minnesota chapter of People to People, Minneapolis Lodge of the Sons of Norway and Growth & Justice. In 1999 he won the Twin Cities International Citizen Award, an informal joint project of the Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, and the Counties of Hennepin and Ramsey. In July, 2004, Erdahl was a member of a delegation of six former U.S. Congressmen who visited Kyiv and cities throughout the Kharkiv, Poltava, and Sumy oblasts to observe the historic election process in Ukraine. He received the Hubert H. Humphrey Public Leadership award in 2011.

Erdahl was elected to Congress in 1978 after 20-year incumbent Al Quie gave up the seat to make a successful run for governor of Minnesota. His successful campaign for Minnesota's First Congressional seat in 1978 was managed by Arlen Wittrock. During his four years in the U.S. House of Representatives, Keith Hall served as his Washington Chief of Staff and Arlen Wittrock served as his Minnesota Chief of Staff. He was easily reelected in 1980. Redistricting led to an endorsement contest with Second Congressional District incumbent, Rep. Tom Hagedorn. After narrowly losing the First District Republican Convention endorsement to Hagedorn (who was narrowly defeated in 1982 by Minnesota State Senator, Tim Penny), Erdahl won the Sixth Congressional District primary, but was narrowly defeated in the general election by Gerry Sikorski. After Tim Penny's retirement, Erdahl ran for his old First District seat in 1994, but was defeated in the primary by State Representative Gil Gutknecht, the eventual winner.

He was Principal Deputy/Acting Assistant Secretary for International Affairs at the U.S. Department of Energy from 1989 to 1993. Erdahl also served as Associate Director/Country Director for the Peace Corps from 1983 to 1989. He currently serves on the board of the United Nations Association of Minnesota. In 1999 he won the Twin Cities International Citizen Award, an informal joint project of the Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, and the Counties of Hennepin and Ramsey.[3] In April, 2011 he was recognized for his public leadership and service with the Hubert H. Humphrey Public Leadership Award by the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota.[4]

The Arlen Inglof Erdahl collection at the Southern Minnesota Historical Center, Memorial Library at the Minnesota State University, Mankato contains materials about his seven years in the Minnesota House of Representatives and his campaign for Minnesota Secretary of State in 1970.[5]

Personal life[edit]

Arlen and his wife, Ellen, now reside in Burnsville, Minnesota. The couple had six children and fourteen grandchildren. His twin brother, Lowell O. Erdahl, is a former ELCA Synod Bishop of the Saint Paul Area Synod.

Arlen Erdahl has dedicated his life to public leadership and service, with an emphasis on servant leadership. His service ethic perhaps began during his childhood on a Minnesota farm where helping each other was a vital part of the community fabric. This service ethic continued in roles as U.S. Army corporal, farmer, state legislator, Minnesota Secretary of State and Public Service Commissioner, U.S. Congressman, presidential appointee in leadership roles in both the U.S. Peace Corps and Department of Energy, Minnesota International Health Volunteers Executive Director and current leadership roles with the Minnesota United Nations Association and the Nobel Peace Prize Forum. Erdahl has learned, served and led people throughout his long list of educational and professional accomplishments and public service roles…

  • B.A., St. Olaf College, Northfield, 1953
  • Farmer, 1953-1970
  • United States Army, 1954-1956
  • Minnesota House of Representatives, 1963-1970
  • M.P.A., Harvard University (Bush Foundation Fellow), 1966
  • Congressional Fellow, Washington, D.C. (Bush Foundation Fellow), 1967-1968
  • Minnesota Secretary of State, 1970-1974
  • Minnesota Public Service Commission, 1975-1978
  • Member of U.S. Congress, serving on the Foreign Affairs, Small Business, and Education and Labor Committees, 1978-1982
  • Country Director, United States Peace Corps, Jamaica, 1983-1985
  • Associate Director, United States Peace Corps, Washington, D.C., 1986-1989
  • Principal Deputy/Acting Assistant Secretary for International Affairs at the U.S. Department of Energy, 1989-1993
  • Executive Director, Minnesota International Health Volunteers, 1994-1999

Born on February 27, 1931, Arlen and his twin brother Lowell (former bishop for the St. Paul Area synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America) grew up on their family farm near Blue Earth, MN. They later both attended St. Olaf College, graduating in 1953. Arlen then served in the U.S Army from 1954-1956, service that included an extended tour of duty in Japan during the last months of the Korean War.

After returning from the Army, he worked on the family farm and started his family with his wife Ellen. Erdahl began his long career in elected public service in 1962 when he was elected to the Minnesota State Legislature, where he served for eight years. During this time, he became one of the four original Bush Foundation Fellows, earning a Masters Degree in Public Administration from Harvard University and serving as a Congressional Fellow in the offices Senator Mark Hatfield (R-OR) and future President Gerald Ford (R-MI), who at that time was Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, both of whom became lifelong friends and mentors.

Erdahl was elected Minnesota Secretary of State in 1970, appointed by Governor Wendell Anderson to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission in 1975 and elected to Congress from Minnesota’s First Congressional district in 1978. He had presidential appointments in leadership roles in the Peace Corps, first as Country Director in Jamaica in 1983 and then as Associate Director of the Peace Corps in Washington, D.C. in 1986. He received another Presidential appointment in 1989 to serve as Principal Deputy/Acting Assistant Secretary for International Affairs at the U.S. Department of Energy. He is honored and grateful to have served either in Congress or Presidential appointments under the administrations of Presidents Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. Erdahl returned to Minnesota in 1993 and served as the Executive Director of Minnesota International Health Volunteers, a nonprofit organization that focuses on improving health of women, children and their communities around the world.

In “retirement,” Erdahl has continued his public service and leadership for the United Nations Association of Minnesota, Nobel Peace Prize Forum Executive Committee, Minnesota chapter of People to People, Minneapolis Lodge of the Sons of Norway and Growth & Justice. In 1999 he won the Twin Cities International Citizen Award, an informal joint project of the Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, and the Counties of Hennepin and Ramsey. In July, 2004, Erdahl was a member of a delegation of six former U.S. Congressmen who visited Kyiv and cities throughout the Kharkiv, Poltava, and Sumy oblasts to observe the historic election process in Ukraine. He received the Hubert H. Humphrey Public Leadership award in 2011.

Even after all of his public leadership experiences in Minnesota, Washington, D.C., and Jamaica and his travels around the world, Erdahl still considers himself a farmer from Blue Earth, MN. When first elected to public office in 1962, a farm neighbor advised that he should always remember where he came from – and he always has. Never overly impressed with titles, neither his own nor those of others, he values his title as a former farmer as much as a former Member of Congress and treats all people with genuine respect and dignity. During his years in public service, he developed lifelong friendships with mutual respect regardless of party affiliation, ideological or cultural differences, title or station in life. He still maintains a friendship with a couple whom he met and exchanged language lessons with during his Army service in Japan more than 50 years ago. During a visit to the U.S. Capitol long after his service in Congress, he greeted a guard near the House chamber by name and shared a laugh about an inside joke they had almost 20 years earlier. He is as comfortable and engaged in conversations with state, national and world leaders as he is with farm neighbors. In fact, during an audience with Pope John Paul II on a Congressional Delegation visit to Rome, he and His Holiness discussed their common backgrounds growing up in rural farming communities.

During his government service, Erdahl distinguished himself by focusing on principles and sound policy rather than on politics and personalities. In a time when politics more often divides than unites people, he still provides an excellent example of working across ideologies to focus on people and their needs. He has a genuine interest and appreciation for diverse peoples and cultures and the humility to engage people as individuals, regardless of positions or titles. He is also passionate about his faith and his family. Perhaps the titles that he treasures above all others are those of husband, father and grandfather. His life of public leadership represents a more civil, measured and more reasonable public discourse and a time when elected officials could vigorously disagree about the merits of an issue without being disagreeable. Arlen Erdahl is a true statesmen.

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Joseph L. Donovan
Secretary of State of Minnesota
1971–1975
Succeeded by
Joan Growe
United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Al Quie
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Minnesota's 1st congressional district

1979–1983
Succeeded by
Tim Penny