Remembering Sandra Gardebring Ogren

Word of Sandra Gardebring’s passing caught one former Capitol dweller by surprise.  I broke the news to my father, Gene Lahammer, who is going on 50 years of covering politics.  He knew Gardebring and her husband former state Representative Paul Ogren very well.  Mr. Lahammer described them as “a power couple at the Capitol.”  He added Gardebring “was brilliant, very gifted.”  Gov. Rudy Perpich elevated her to the high court and Gene described her as a “Perpich favorite” who earned her way up in government.  Gardebring served the state in so many capacities.  I got to cover her in her time at the University of Minnesota and she struck me as smart and warm instantly.  But my father covered her for decades and he’s the source I trust the most.

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Comments (4)

  1. Submitted by Judy Borger on 07/22/2010 - 11:38 am.

    I had a lot of contact with her when I was covering the men’s Gopher basketball cheating scandal — Gangelhoff, remember? — for the Pioneer Press. Sandy was a straight up, honest person and a credit to the University of Minnesota. She was smart, funny and I liked her a lot. I’ll always remember that she showed up at the newsroom party the night George Dohrmann won the Pulitzer for those stories. She wanted to congratulate him, and all of us. It was a classy move for a university VP, given that those stories exposed academic cheating. She is gone too soon.

  2. Submitted by Paul Gustafson on 07/23/2010 - 11:53 am.

    I posted this comment on Joe Kimball’s initial report on Minn.Post about the passing of Sandra Gardebring Ogren, but I think it bears repeating given that Mary is now doing a separate report.

    And, at the time, Mary’s father was covering this story. He actually interceded outside a capitol hearing room when I got into a hot and heavy verbal exchange with some Dept. of Veteran Affairs officials about their misdeeds:

    I can’t think of any public servant in recent Minnesota history who has a resume of crucial positions as impressive as Sandra Gardebring Ogren.

    Gov. Rudy Perpich put her in key positions of authority when things got interesting and politically hot. She was like Cool Hand Luke.

    I had an experience with her in the late 1980s when I was a Star Tribune reporter.

    I was doing stories about absymal conditions at the Minnesota Veterans Home in Minneapolis. After a second round of scandal about terrible health conditions, Perpich took away control of the home from the state Department of Veterans Affairs and gave control to Gardebring as Commissioner of Human Services.

    The veterans groups howled. How dare Perpich put “The Welfare Ladies” – Gardebring and the Human Services Dept. – in charge of veterans health care!

    Within a day or so of that announcement, Gardebring went to the Mpls. Vets Home to meet with administrators. Some reporters were there waiting to ask questions after the meeting. And she took them.

    Then she did an extraordinary thing. She told the reporters, including me, that she was taking a tour of the home and invited us along. The Dept. of Veteran Affairs and Vet’s Home officials had stricken looks on their faces.

    What a smart and transparent thing to do. Few people I’ve known in public life would have had the intelligence, openness and political saavy to do that.

    You don’t get public servants any better than Sandra Gardebring Ogren.

  3. Submitted by Nelson French on 07/23/2010 - 07:19 pm.

    How well I remember the long sessions as we worked to secure passage of the Minnesota State Superfund law in the early 1980’s. Although a very serious issue and major political debate – we took time to have fun and get to know each other. On this and many other things Sandra was a true mentor to me. We will miss you dearly.

  4. Submitted by Jim Roth on 07/24/2010 - 10:38 am.

    I served on the Board of the Center For Victims of Torture when she was Chair of the Board. I also appeared in the Minnesota Supreme when she was a Justice. I also dealt with her after she became an administrator at the University of Minnesota. My wife had extensive dealings with her when she was Commissioner of the Department of Health and Human Services.

    In short, my wife and I had many dealing with her in many different capacities. She was smart, compassionate, kind and classy in every setting.

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