Jim Ramstad was from Wayzata.

Everyone knew that. It was in his congressional biography, it was in his obituary, it's on the newly re-christened Jim Ramstad Post Office in Wayzata.

But on the far shore of Grays Bay, where Ramstad made his home for decades, they beg to differ.

The Ramstad homestead may have gotten its mail from Wayzata. He may have had a Wayzata ZIP code. But that mail was delivered to Minne­tonka.

Allow Minnetonka Mayor Brad Wiersum to explain. Yes, the congressman lived in the 55391 Wayzata ZIP code, yes he lived in the Wayzata school district, and yes, his Third Congressional District offices were in Wayzata.

"But his home for the last probably 40 years has been in the same place," Wiersum said. "And it's been on Grays Bay on Lake Minnetonka — in Minnetonka."

The ZIP codes for the western suburbs are older than some of the suburbs themselves. Which explains why, say, Cargill headquarters, which sits well within Minnetonka's borders, has a Wayzata address.

"There are people who live in Minnetonka who think they live in Wayzata because of that Wayzata address and Wayzata ZIP code," said Wiersum, whose city has so many overlapping ZIP codes his own mail used to arrive with a city of Hopkins address. "But they are incorrect."

Where Jim Ramstad lived is far less important than how he lived.

But if you want a measure how beloved a public figure is, look to see how many different places stake a claim to them.

When Sunisa Lee won Olympic gold, the celebration spiraled out of the room in Oakdale — where her family, fans and fellow members of Minnesota's Hmong American community had gathered to watch one of their own make history — to engulf the entire state.

Suni Lee of Team USA. Suni Lee of Minnesota. Suni Lee of St. Paul. The East Side's own. South St. Paul Secondary's own. One of ours, one of ours, one of ours.

Jim Ramstad's name is on a post office in Wayzata.

His legacy lives on in every person he helped on the road to sobriety, and every American whose battle against the insurance companies for mental health care or addiction treatment is a little easier because of him.

He was a Republican who inspired Democratic U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips and Democratic U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar to coax Congress, where lawmakers don't agree on much of anything these days, into renaming a post office in his honor.

He was a public servant who truly enjoyed the public service part of his job, said former state Sen. Paul Anderson, the former director of Ramstad's Wayzata district office. There are framed letters from Ramstad hanging on walls in homes around the Third District. At one event, when a speaker asked people to stand if Congressman Ramstad had helped them personally on the road to sobriety, most of those in the room rose to their feet.

"He was so driven by constituent service," Anderson said. "He did a lot of it behind the scenes where nobody would know."

As far as Ramstad himself was concerned, Anderson said, he lived in Wayzata; he worked for the people of the Third Congressional District; and he worked with anyone — Republican or Democrat — willing to help in that work.

But Minnetonka was Ramstad's hometown, too — on the map and in the hearts of the people he served.

Wiersum's twin daughters were born with developmental disabilities, so Ramstad's long campaign for health care equity "was personally meaningful to me.

"He was most gracious and most compassionate and he will always be someone that I have an affection for and respect because of his work for people with disabilities," Wiersum said. "I'm proud that Congressman Ramstad lived in Minnetonka."

jennifer.brooks@startribune.com • 612-673-4008

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