Tom Hedges was working as St. Peter’s city administrator when Loren Law showed up at the 27-year-old’s doorstep in 1976 with a pitch: Would he be interested in leading a newly incorporated city called Eagan?
“I didn’t even know where Eagan was,” said Hedges, who became Eagan’s first city administrator and retired in 2013. “Discovering people and helping people grow as leaders in the public sector ... [Law] touched a lot of people. He left his mark.”
From Burnsville to Little Falls, Law used his experience as Richfield mayor to help other cities, school districts and companies across Minnesota recruit new leaders or run more efficiently. The North Dakota native and World War II veteran aimed to improve the community in ways big and small — from public service to picking up trash in his neighborhood. Law died Dec. 30 at age 101.
“He always said: ‘Listen to the nobody just as much as the somebody.’ And he embodied that all of his life,” said his son, Lanny Law of New Brighton. “The guy just never stopped. He helped people lead and get things done.”
Born in Bordulac, N.D., in 1917, Law graduated from Valley City State University after studying business and instrumental music. He taught school in North Dakota and Monticello, Minn., before moving to Richfield to work as a training director with Northwest Airlines. After being drafted into the Army in World War II, he returned to Northwest before moving on to leadership roles at Archer Daniels Midland Co. and Northwestern Refinery.
Then, one day in 1969, the 51-year-old was mowing his lawn when a group of Richfield residents showed up, asking him to run for the City Council. He did, and he won. Three years later, he was elected mayor, a position he held for eight years in the fast-growing first-ring suburb, overseeing development of permanent streets, a new library and new parks. “ ‘We’ve got to get Richfield on the map,’ ” his son recalled him saying.
Law served the city at a difficult time, helping set the stage for major development, said Marty Kirsch, who was Richfield mayor from 1990 to 2006 and considered Law a mentor.
Law unsuccessfully ran as a Republican state representative, and when he lost his re-election bid for mayor in 1979, he dedicated his time to the management consulting firm Loren L. Law & Associates Inc. that he and his wife, Arlene, had launched a few years earlier. He also remained active in the community — from leadership roles at his church to the Minnesota Mayors Association.
Law was a hard worker who was always helping people, said his son Allan Law of Edina, who is known as the “sandwich man” for feeding the homeless in Minneapolis.
“If there was a problem, he’s going to take care of the problem,” Allan Law said, adding that his parents would walk their neighborhood and pick up garbage.
After raising four boys in Richfield, Loren and Arlene Law moved to an Edina condo and split time at a cabin on Lake Sylvia in Annandale. Law also loved cheering on the University of Minnesota Gophers and reading the Foster County Independent, the newspaper from his hometown.
And he didn’t slow down.
Until he was 75, “he could outwork all of his sons,” Lanny Law said. At 81, he retired, and he and his wife spent winters in West Palm Beach, Fla. At 87, he wrote his autobiography. After his wife died in 2010 at 95, he continued to live on his own at his Edina condo.
Law is survived by sons Lanny and Allen as well as Loren Larry Law of Plymouth and Greg Law of Riviera Beach, Fla., seven grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild. Services have been held.