Former 8th District Congressman James Oberstar, who served 18 terms representing Northeastern Minnesota in the U.S. House of Representatives, died Saturday at age 79.
Many of his friends and colleagues issued statements honoring the Iron Range native. They are printed below in their entirety:
Family members of Jim Oberstar: “We are heartbroken to share the news that Jim Oberstar has passed way. Jim was a loving husband, father, grandfather, friend and brother. While we mourn the loss of a good man, we also celebrate his life and his service. We ask for your thoughts and prayers, and understanding, at this very difficult time.”
Mayor Don Ness, who worked as Congressman Oberstar’s Campaign Manager from 1997-2007, issued the following statement: “Over the past fifty years, no public official has done more for our region than Jim Oberstar. He was this amazing combination of characteristics. He was likely the most brilliant mind in Congress, his memory and understanding of complex policy was legendary. He was also part Iron Range street fighter, he always carried that chip on his shoulder as the son of an immigrant mine laborer. But the most amazing thing about Jim is that he was one of the most kind-hearted and warm people I’ve ever met. He loved people and people loved Jim.
“Aside from my family, Jim was the most influential person in my life. He was the perfect mentor because he loved to teach and he took such a passionate and personal interest in the lives and careers of those close to him. In our long car rides across the district, I would pepper him with questions about congressional history, various leaders in Congress, and insight on the day’s news and policy debates. Jim would never disappoint. Even with an audience of just one lowly staffer in the car, Jim would speak passionately, his mind constantly firing on all cylinders.
“I’m heartbroken. My prayers are with Jean and Jim’s family. This is such a loss for us all and especially those who love this incredible person.”
Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon: “Congressman Oberstar was a tremendous servant and advocate for Northeastern Minnesota, and for Minnesotans statewide. He was committed to safe transportation, public access to Minnesota’s beautiful parks and trails, and to bringing jobs to the people of Minnesota’s 8th district. My thoughts today are with Congressman Oberstar’s wife Jean, his children, and his grandchildren.”
Former U.S. Rep. Dave Obey: “I’m shocked and stunned by Jim Oberstar’s death. For decades he and I were partners across the Wisconsin - Minnesota state line in doing good things for the Northland. He was a great Congressman and a wonderful human being. He had guts and his top priority was always, in every way, the economic wellbeing of working families everywhere.”
Gov. Mark Dayton: “Congressman Oberstar was a true champion for the people of the 8th District, and for our entire state. He worked tirelessly to bring jobs, economic growth, and a better quality of life to his constituents. I extend my deepest condolences to his wife Jean, and his family.”
Sen. Amy Klobuchar: “Jim Oberstar was a mentor and a friend and a man of true purpose and grit. His purpose? To make life better for the people of northern Minnesota and our world. His method? Knowing all the facts and never giving up just like the people he represented.
“His life journey took him from the hard scrabble mines of northern Minnesota to the chairmanship of one of the most powerful committees in Congress. He traveled the country and the world helping people, sharing knowledge and always speaking his mind, sometimes in French.
“Every miner should remember his work to keep the mines open and make them safer. Every American who bikes the Minnesota bike trails, hikes the Lake Superior trail, and drives our national highways and bridges should remember Jim today. He was a treasure trove of facts and figures for every member of Congress.
“To the end he loved Jean and his family, his Slovenian heritage, his long bike rides, and anything and everything about transportation policy. We will miss him dearly.”
Operating Engineeers: “Jim Oberstar was a true friend to the Operating Engineers and to all American workers. He was a visionary, who knew that transportation infrastructure is the heart of our country. He worked with us and our members to make all modes of transportation stronger.
“The Congressman was an advocate for promoting good middle class jobs that helped support families.
“The Operating Engineers lost a great friend, but the world class roads, bridges, and rail lines that he helped create will stand for decades as his legacy.”
Laborers District Council President Todd Pufahl: “Jim Oberstar was a tireless advocate for transportation infrastructure, a man ahead of his time. He understood that the strength of our country, and its economy, depends on the state of our infrastructure: roads, rail, ports, and bridges.
“He was an inspirational leader, and he will be missed. We will remember his labors on behalf of the American worker, and we will continue his fight.”