Elaine Voss began her career in government by nudging her husband, Gordon, to seek election to the Legislature. She ran his campaigns and doorknocked at every home in their Blaine district.
With degrees in nursing and education, Voss taught for two decades until 1981, when she became Anoka County’s election supervisor. Two years later, she stepped into a career-defining job as deputy to Minnesota Secretary of State Joan Growe. The two worked together for nearly two decades, building the state’s reputation for high voter turnout and fair elections.
“She was the glue,” Growe said. “She was so smart and so organized and always one step ahead of any problems.”
Voss, 83, died Dec. 21 in Edina of complications of Alzheimer’s disease.
Born Elaine Voldsness in 1936 in Eau Claire, Wis., she met her husband due to an alphabetical seating chart in a class at the University of Minnesota.
Her obituary described the couple as “a unified force, equally matched and devoted to each other throughout their public and personal lives.” They traveled the world and visited all 50 states, but “no place was more precious to them than their cabin.”
Gordy Voss was first elected to the Legislature in 1972, the same year as Growe. Voss’ son, Gregory, of Apple Valley, said his mother and father wanted to knock on every door in the district twice, and tracked their progress with markers on color-coded maps they kept during the campaigns.
Voss, Growe and another colleague had a long-standing pact, Growe said: On any given day, only one of them was allowed to be in a bad mood and the other two had to carry the day.
Growe may have been the prominent office holder, but Voss was known to anyone who worked with the office. Among their accomplishments was moving to an entirely computerized election system, the first in the country, Growe said.
“I knew what a hard worker she was. I knew how well people spoke of her,” Growe said, adding that they meshed so well, they finished each other’s sentences.
“Elaine and I could just track each other,” Growe said.
When Growe didn’t seek re-election and left office in 1999, Voss did as well.
Gregory Voss said his parents’ work and social lives were effortlessly intertwined. For 60 years, Elaine Voss had regular dinners with classmates from nursing school. The couple celebrated New Year’s Eve with his classmates from graduate school. They formed gourmet clubs with political friends for regular dinners.
Voss insisted on family dinners with her husband, son and daughter, Gregory Voss said. Dinner conversation would move back and forth from personal to politics, from “How was your day?” to “Here’s what we’re trying to do with the school funding formula,” he said.
His mother’s mantra: “Do as much good as you can for as many people as you can for as long as you can.”
Over the years, Voss served on boards for more than a dozen organizations. She left her final board position in 2017, the same year that her husband died.
Voss was a proud Norwegian and a lifelong Lutheran, her son said, and Christmas always included Norwegian meatballs, lutefisk and homemade candy.
In addition to her son, she is survived by a daughter, Kirsten, of Minnetonka; a sister, Dianne Powers, of Eau Claire, Wis., and four grandchildren.
Services have been held.