A Salute to Loren Lein
Annually the Blue Earth Chamber of Commerce selects an individual to receive the prestigious Community Service Award. This year the honor is being bestowed on Loren Lein.
The long-time public servant will be officially recognized for his contributions to the community and the surrounding area at the Chambers 68th Annual Awards Banquet and Meeting on Monday, January 19th at Hamilton Hall.
Over the years, Lein has served Blue Earth and Faribault County, first as vice mayor, then mayor and most recently as a county commissioner.
A strong voice for area constituents and a defender of the environment, Lein has brought commitment and dedication into every aspect of his life.
Born in Fairmont in 1932, Lein’s family moved to Watson in 1940. He attended country school there and graduated in 1951 from Montevideo High School.
He farmed with his father for awhile. They raised purebred Holsteins and Spotted Poland China hogs, some of which they entered in State Fair livestock shows.
In 1953, he married Florence Jones from Benson. That same year he was inducted into the U.S. Army and was stationed at Fort Hood Texas, where he trained with heavy weapons in the Armored Division while his wife worked at a bank there. Upon receiving his honorable discharge, he had attained the rank of corporal.
After his stint with the Army, Lein returned to Watson and farmed for one year before going to work as a technician for the Minnesota Valley Breeders Service. During this four year period, he had his first taste of public service, acting as president of the Jaycees in the early 1960s.
In the 1970s he served as president of the local Kiwanis organization as well as the group’s lieutenant governor for a year.
“I then worked at State Farm Insurance in Winnebago for two years serving as the Assistant District Director,” recalls Lein.
“When Harold Myers retired from State Farm in Blue Earth, I took over the business and worked there for 33 years,” says Lein.
In 1971, Lein began his 34 years of service on the Blue Earth City Council.
“I was elected mayor pro tem in 1978, after the death of then mayor Ed Leland,” says Lein. “I entered office the day before the Golden Spike commemorative ceremony took place on Interstate 90,” he recalls.
He then ran for mayor of Blue Earth in 1985 and held the position until 1991.
It was also at this time, approximately 1971-2001, Lein moonlighted as an auctioneer.
“I had always dealt in antiques, appraising and farms, so auctioneering came somewhat naturally to me,” says Lein.
“During those years I sold everything from fine coins to farmland, honeybees to homes.”
For several years he and fellow auctioneer Marlin Krupp worked together. As Lein’s involvement in politics intensified, it was feared his sometimes controversial viewpoints could harm the team, so they parted ways.
Among Lein’s career highlights he points out Juba’s expansion on Main Street and bringing on board Custom Foods (Kerry) in 1985.
“It’s interesting the Chamber is recognizing Kerry as the ‘ 2008 Business of the Year’ the same night I am being honored,” says Lein.
If not for the hard work of Pat Hardy, the City Administrator, and Lein in 1985 to bring the company to Blue Earth, there would be no Kerry to recognize in January 2009.
“At the time, many people were opposed to us bringing this business to Blue Earth,” recalls Lein.
In 1991, he began a 16 year tenure as a county commissioner.
“I like to be involved and progressive,” summarizes Lein of his involvement invarious organizations throughout the years.
Lein also says of his public service involvement, “I wanted to serve everyone to the best of my ability and for the people to be represented well.”
Other organizations Loren Lein has been involved with throughout the years include: cub scouts, Blue Earth Trinity Lutheran Church Council, Ducks Unlimited, Pheasants Forever, United Turkey Federation, National Rifle Association, American Legion, Blue Earth Chamber of Commerce, Lura Lake Sportsmen Club, Minnesota Cross Bow Association and the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association.
Showing his sense of humor, Lein says he ran for the Minnesota State Senate in 1996 but received second place.
Receiving this years Chamber honor is not the only recognition Lein has ever received. In 1988 he was the recipient of a plaque from the Blue Earth Chamber of Commerce for his support of the downtown redevelopment project. The same group honored him in 1989 with the Individual Public Service Award. Finally, in recognition of his outstanding leadership and support for the conservation of wildlife resources, he was presented the Wildlife Stewardship Award from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1994.
Currently, Lein states one issue quite overlooked is the state and local environment.
Since approximately 1995, the avid hunter and fisherman has been grooming 320 acres south of Blue Earth for a reserve where ducks, deer and other wildlife can congregate. He has been working with the Fish and Wildlife Service on this endeavor.
Lein adds Faribault County presently has about ten hunting refuges such as the one he has near Pilot Grove.
“We have a pretty good hunting area here,” summarizes Lein.
The other environmental issue Lein presently is interested in concerns raising switchgrass – a native North American grass that often grows naturally on borders of crop land.
He currently is serving as the director of an environmental group studying the benefits of switchgrass and the possibility of it becoming the right crop for producing ethanol to replace gasoline. Lein has been interested in ethanol research since 1985.
“Switchgrass will produce 68 percent more ethanol than corn. Even though it takes three years to get started, switchgrass will continue production up to ten years, whereas corn has to be planted every year,” he explains.
When Lein isn’t investigating environmental issues or dropping in at a county commissioner meeting, he probably is working with his dogs, Callie (Yellow Labrador) and Yenta (Springer Spaniel).
Owner of Blue River Kennels, Lein has been breeding and training dogs for 50 years. Springer Spaniels, Short-Hairs and Yellow Labradors are his dogs of choice.
“I have the dogs trained first for obedience in Montgomery then I do the rest of the training myself,” says Lein.
He employs a lot of hand signals when training his dogs. This is very beneficial during competitions and is also helpful while hunting.
Lein has always enjoyed hunting pheasants, duck and deer, but says one of the greatest hunts he was ever on was in Oregon. A Bull Elk was the prize of this trip.
The sportsman still enjoys archery, but since his heart surgery he is limited to using a crossbow.
Since he also is involved with the Blue Earth Area Mentors, last spring he set up an archery target and showed the group different ways to shoot deer as well as showing them a tree stand and explaining how it works.
“I couldn’t have run the whole gamut, especially the political years, without the support of my wife, Florence, and my family. A person in political office needs a wife who is understanding of his mission,” he says.
“Representing the people has been my greatest accomplishment,” reflects Lein. “Elected officials should be there for the constituents and forget their personal interests,” says Lein.
In keeping true to his philosophy of ‘doing things for the betterment of the community,’ Lein continues to keep tabs on the issues and actions facing Faribault County and particularly Blue Earth.
“I feel I owe the city of Blue Earth and Faribault County. It has been good to my family and me and has been a great place to live,” says Lein.
William E. Simon says of public servants, “infinitely more important than sharing one’s material wealth is sharing the wealth of ourselves – our time and energy, our passion and commitment, and, above all, our love.”
Simon must have had Loren Lein in mind when he wrote this. For indeed, Lein has demonstrated his passion for dogs, politics, the environment, but most of all his love for his family and community.