Remembering Oberstar's legacy as a politician

By KBJR News 1

May 3, 2014 Updated May 3, 2014 at 8:17 PM CDT

Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) - Konnie Lemay is a journalist with Lake Superior Magazine and had the opportunity to interview Jim Oberstar several times to learn his passions in life.

"Jim loved the bike trails and he helped get the Gitchi Gammi Trail going on the Minnesota shore," said Lemay in her offices Saturday.

Lemay said Oberstar lived the passions he worked for during a long career in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Oberstar graduated from Chisholm High School in 1952 and spent four years teaching French to U.S. Marines. He then worked at Chief of Staff for Minnesota 8th District Congressman John Blatnik for a decade.

In 1974, he replaced Blatnik in the House.

He would go on to be a long–term leader in the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

That passion for shipping would eventually result in a vessel named the Oberstar in honor of the Congressman's work.

"Jim was known as a true leader in transportation issues and an advocate for mining and for shipping," said Duluth Mayor Don Ness during the christening of the 806-ft. Hon. James L. Oberstar ship in the Duluth Harbor.

"There was nobody in all of the years that I served in Congress who had a better understanding of Great Lakes issues who was involved with more tenacity," said former Democratic Wisconsin Congressman Dave Obey during the same christening.

Other passionate issues for Oberstar included human rights, the environment, sustainable energy and public transportation.

"To facilitate the movement of people and reduce the $120 billion a year congestion tax that is shouldered on urban Americans and free up the energy of this country," said Oberstar during a hearing on transportation issues in rural areas at University of Minnesota Duluth.

As a leader in transportation issues, Oberstar was instrumental in getting $250 million to the Minnesota Department of Transportation to replace the bridge that collapsed in the Twin Cities in 2007.

Konnie Lemay says that was perfectly within character for the congressman.

"He just has so much passion for the things that happen around our region," said Lemay succinctly.

Along with years of service on the U.S. House Transportation Committee, Jim Oberstar was also involved with House Caucuses for human rights, sustainable energy, America's steel industry and Great Lakes protection.

Dave Anderson