WASECA, Minn. — Former Minnesota House Speaker Rod Searle, who led the chamber when it was evenly split between political parties, has died at age 93.
The Waseca farmer had been afflicted by heart complications. The Mankato Free Press reported that (http://bit.ly/1hqxuly ) Searle died Sunday morning at his home where he had been receiving hospice care.
The moderate Republican served 24 years in the Legislature, including the 1979 session when he was elected speaker. It came when Democrats and Republicans each held 67 seats and had to strike a power sharing deal to move ahead. The split was broken during a special election later that year.
Longtime friend and political adviser Peter Madel told The Associated Press on Monday that Searle had the perfect demeanor to deal with the sharp divide.
"He was totally unflappable. You couldn't get him upset," Madel said. "That served him in great stead in the Legislature, particularly when he was speaker."
In an autobiography, Searle said he endured by focusing on common purpose over political difference.
"Out of necessity, and challenged by the legislative concerns of the times, raw politics was minimized, and a system of balance, cooperation and mutual respect produced workable solutions to the problems that confronted us," he said.
Said Mark Piepho, a freshman legislator in the year Searle was on top: "He was one of the giants in the Legislature for years."
Gov. Mark Dayton said in a statement:
"I had the opportunity to work with former Speaker Rod Searle during his distinguished service in the Minnesota legislature. Rod was a principled leader, a dedicated public servant, and a true gentleman. He was elected Speaker of the House in 1979, because he held the respect and trust of both Republican and DFL members in that deadlocked chamber.
"On behalf of all Minnesotans, I extend to his family my deepest condolences and my appreciation for his service to our state."
Searle was born in New Jersey but moved to Minnesota with his wife in 1947. He began farming 280 acres of run-down land. He remarried in 2001 after his first wife passed away. He is survived by wife, Ruth, two sons and a daughter.
His funeral is set for Friday in Owatonna.