Column: Remembering Elaine Harder
Upon becoming managing editor of both the Jackson County Pilot and Lakefield Standard in April 2002, I found myself writing almost every kind of news story imaginable. It was a significant shift in my journalism career — I had worked primarily in sports beforehand — and it would be fair to say that I found myself a bit overwhelmed at first.
Numerous people made my work easier, and one of them without question was Elaine Harder.
Elaine, who died last week at age 65, was serving at the time as District 22B Representative in the Minnesota House. She was in the midst of her fourth term — and was seeking election to a fifth — during my short-lived tenure in Jackson County, but despite my brief time working there made a lasting impression.
Up to that point, my experience with interviewing political figures had been limited. I’d covered many meetings at the municipal and county levels, not to mention local school boards, but state politics was new. None of that mattered to Elaine. She was always both friendly and patient whenever I visited with her. She was consistently willing to explain why she felt a certain issue was important, and why she felt the way she did about something.
Most admirably, Elaine always engaged me — and others I saw her interact with — in a way that emanated professionalism and even grace. She seemed to enjoy working in a collaborative way, and I never heard her talk disparagingly about another person (not even, say, a legislator that wasn’t a fellow Republican). Rod Hamilton, who succeeded her in the House and continues to serve there today, couldn’t have had a much better role model.
May she rest in peace.