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FORGET REAGAN HIGHWAY

The Minnesota Taxpayers League's recent suggestion to rename Minnesota's Floyd B. Olson Memorial Highway in honor of President Ronald Reagan has raised the ire of one East Gull Lake woman.

Patt Krantz, a daughter of the Depression-era Gov. Floyd B. Olson, fondly remembers her famous father and rejects the idea the Olson highway should be stripped of her family name in deference to the late president.

"There are other roads they can choose," she said. "That makes me very upset."

David Strom, president of the Minnesota Taxpayers League, issued a news release in which Olson was referred to as a "Red" governor who embraced socialism and who pushed for state ownership of industries.

Krantz was too young to understand much of her father's politics. The three-term governor had filed for a U.S. Senate bid when he died at 44 in 1936. She said his political career kept him away from home a great deal but he had told her she could work in his office after her schooling.

"I knew I had a very dynamic and popular father," she said. "I did get a chance to introduce him at various towns. He died too young. He would have become senator. He was ambitious and very well liked."

Strom said he was surprised the furor his suggestion created, since it was issued "a little tongue in cheek," but noted that he's garnered hundreds of signatures supporting the renaming of the highway at the Minnesota State Fair. He said he doesn't expect his suggestion to be enacted by the Legislature.

"He made a lot of proposals that were radical," Strom said of Olson.

Strom said Olson pushed for state ownership of industries and once said "I do not mind being called a 'Red.'... I would prefer it to 'yellow.'"

He said critics of the proposal were trying to "air-brush" Olson and keep Reagan from being honored in Minnesota. He said he wasn't trying to smear Olson but noted that the late governor, who was elected on the Farmer-Labor Party ticket, "was certainly no stranger to the rough and tumble of politics."

If the measure is introduced in the Legislature, District 12 Sen. Paul Koering, R-Fort Ripley, has vowed to stop it. While he said it's fine to name a highway after Reagan, Olson shouldn't stripped of an honor after he's served the state and he can no longer defend himself.

"I think that's in very poor taste, if you ask me," Koering said.

He wondered if some day, a similar proposal might be made to change the name of the C. Elmer Anderson Memorial Highway by opponents of his policies.

"I will be making sure this doesn't happen," Koering said of the renaming of the Olson highway.

As for Krantz, who's known to many Brainerd area audiences for her long association with the Sweet Adelines, the memory of her father and his political success remains unblemished. Had he not died at an early age, she said his political legacy might have even been stronger.

"I'm sure he would have been president," she said.

MIKE O'ROURKE can be reached at mike.orourke@brainerddispatch.com or 855-5860.

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