WE’RE NOT EXACTLY the Kennedys. But the Kletscher family, my family, has a long history of political, church and community involvement.
My uncle, Merlin Kletscher, writes in the family history booklet he compiled:
“Many of us (in this older generation) have, like our forefathers, been active in our community. We have served our country in the military, on church councils, city councils, township boards, ambulance squads, fire departments, and school boards. We’ve served on Legion auxiliaries, vocational school cooperatives, electric power cooperatives and grain elevator board cooperatives. Fire chiefs, mayors and county commissioners are among our family—and it makes me proud. The list for our family could go on and on. The point here is that our families have seen the need, as our forefathers did, to serve others to make someone else’s life a better life.”
For the Kletschers, that service to others traces back to my great grandfather, Rudolph Kletscher, a German immigrant. In 1890, he started a mission church at his home near Vesta in southwestern Minnesota. The families who met in his farmhouse would eventually organize St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, where I worshipped as a child and which my mother and many other relatives still attend today.
I never knew my great grandfather, who died three decades before I was born. But his legacy of community involvement continued when his son Henry, my grandfather, served for many years on the Vesta School Board. When I was attending Vesta Elementary School, I would walk by a plaque just inside the front door engraved with my grandpa’s name. I suppose, subconsciously, that made an impression upon me.
My Uncle Merlin, the family historian, like his father before him, became involved in education by serving on two school boards. His community involvement is too long to list. But suffice to say that Rudolph Kletscher would be impressed with his grandson.
He would also be proud of my Uncle Harold, who held public office for more than 30 years in Vesta. Two of Harold’s sons likewise were elected to office.
In my immediate family, my dad, Elvern, fought on the front lines in the Korean Conflict and was active locally in church and Legion organizations and probably other groups of which I am unaware. He once unsuccessfully ran for Redwood County commissioner.
One of my brothers served several terms as a county commissioner. My older brother was the Westbrook fire chief for many years and his son is currently a volunteer fireman.
My eldest daughter holds a political science degree and today works in the State Capitol complex.
Like my Uncle Merlin, I am proud to be part of a family that gives back via public service.
MY COUSIN JEFF KLETSCHER, who is current president of the Minnesota Association of Small Cities and who served on the Floodwood City Council for 10 years before being elected mayor in 2003—he’s in his fifth mayoral term—was a DFL candidate for the House District 5B seat in northeastern Minnesota.
Jeff finished fourth among five DFLers in Tuesday’s special primary election. It was hard, he says, to be from a small community (Floodwood, population 503) with two big communities (Chisholm, population 4,960, and Hibbing, population 17,071) in the district.
DFL-endorsed candidate and Iron Range attorney Carly Melin easily won the primary with 50 percent of the votes. The 25-year-old is from Hibbing.
I’m not going to pretend that I am informed about northeastern Minnesota politics or the DFL candidates (other than my cousin) who vied for the office vacated by Tony Sertich, the newly-appointed commissioner for the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board.
But I can tell you that Jeff, like his great grandfather, grandfather and father (my Uncle Harold) before him, is living a legacy of service. He cares about rural and small-town Minnesota. Jeff’s length of public service (nearly 20 years) speaks volumes to me about his dedication to making life better for Minnesotans.
© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling