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Former Crow Wing County commissioner dies: Dewey Tautges remembered fondly by peers

Former Crow Wing County Commissioner Dewey Tautges never forgot where he came from, and the farmer approached elected office with a down-to-earth philosophy.

The two-term commissioner from District 1 was first elected in 2000. The husband, father of two and Brainerd High School graduate died Monday, Aug. 13, at the age of 74.

"Dewey was a real straight-shooter. He cared about property rights and county roads and representing the good folks in the southeast part of the county," County Administrator Tim Houle said.

"He was very down to earth and what was most notable to me about Dewey was that he was such a kind and gentle man in such a rough and tumble business. Even if you didn't see eye to eye with him about something, that was just business; he still cared about you as a person."

Terry Sluss served on the county board with Tautges from 1996 to 2006. The 70-year-old from Baxter agreed with Houle's characterization of Tautges, who lived in Fort Ripley..

"I would describe him as a friendly person. We got along all the time, although we had some differences of opinion. He was a little bit more conservative," Sluss said.

"Much of the time we were able to community with the group of five and come to some kind of resolution whether or not we voted the same way. ... But I think the part that stands out is just that he really did stand up for his own beliefs, and those were a little bit different than mine."

Tautges said in a 2004 article in the Brainerd Dispatch when he was running for re-election that he supported fair and consistent land management and open dialogue with townships.

"During the time period that we served together, we ended up voting on the new complexes and passing the court facility, the jail, the social services building and the county road buildings," Sluss said.

"He supported most of that, but I wanted to go a little bit deeper and add the Law Enforcement Center building, but that did not pass, so Dewey and I were on opposing sides about that part ... but I understood where he was coming from."

Tautges had said his goal was "to reach a balance protecting health/safety while continuing to protect property rights ... to wisely budget monies for education and law enforcement."

"Dewey was very typical of the south end of the county, St. Mathias people—just a very gregarious kind of guy that just was very pleasant to be around and just knew the people he represented," Commissioner Paul Thiede said.

"I just know that he came from that farming community and the farming culture of small town St. Mathias. ... I know he and (his wife) Peggy were very involved in the St. Mathias Catholic Church down there. I think they were part of that community and that's a very strong community."

Thiede served with Tautges from 2007-2009.

"I know he had, I believe, heart problems, so he suffered from illnesses over the last few years. ... I know that he has been hospitalized a couple of times," Thiede said of Tautges.

Houle said, "He had a big laugh and he used it often. Our stories about the time he spent with us are recalled around here with great fondness. He left a significant legacy here at the county, and it was a great honor for me to get to work with him."

Visitation will be from 4 to 7 p.m. Thursday at Nelson-Doran Funeral Home in Brainerd, Minn. Visitation will continue from 10 to 11 a.m., followed by the Mass of Christian Burial at 11 a.m. Friday at St. Mathias Catholic Church.