August 6th, 2021 by Gary Osberg

In January of 1971, I attended a Coon Rapids City Council meeting to complain about the snowmobiles that were running up and down the streets in my neighborhood. I was not impressed with my representation, so that fall I decided to run for the Third Ward Council seat. I had met a few folks at a caucus in 1970, so with their help, we managed to pull off an upset victory. The fellow that we beat was a lawyer and the Vice President of a large insurance company and he was going for his third three year term.

I think what did him in was his decision to distribute a legal sized document with all of his qualifications on one side, filling up the whole sheet, and my qualifications on the other side, taking up not even half of the page.  Things like: “Attended college”.  After all, I was 27 years old when we started the campaign.  It was kind of mean spirited of him.

One of the guys that helped me get elected was Gene Merriam. We had spent a lot of hours collecting rummage for a garage sale fundraiser, so we got to know each other quite well. The next year Gene ran for Council at Large and he won that seat. Rick Reiter ran for the first ward seat and he won.  In late 1973, we filled a vacancy in Ward 2 by appointing Dave Therkelsen. We served together in the year 1974.

Last month the four of us met at Kendale’s Tavern &  Chophouse at the Bunker Hill Golf Course in Coon Rapids. Loren and Arnie were asked to join us.  They had both worked very hard on our campaigns. Dave brought a copy of the Coon Rapids Herald dated March 22, 1974 with the headline “Ban the Can Ordinance Adopted”.  Dave and the mayor Don Erlandson had voted no, but the rest of us voted for the ordinance.  All five of the council were pictured above the headline.  It looked like a Junior Achievement class photo.  The citizens had to gather signatures for a petition to place a referendum on the ballot that fall to overturn the new law.  The referendum passed.  The young idealists were overturned.  In the month of September of that year we had 20 public hearings.  I did not even consider running for another three year term.

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your wild and precious life?”  from Mary Oliver’s “The Summer Day”, a poem beloved by Arlene Helgeson.

PS:  The Whit Gallery is having a special show tonight in downtown St. Cloud.  Works by Tony Caponi will be on display.  Tony created the Granite Trio which is also on West Saint Germain. Arlene Helgeson was a driving force behind the Granite Trio. Details on the event are at 

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