Larry Cohen — the former chief judge, St. Paul mayor and County Board chairman who’s been tagged Ramsey County’s “triple threat” — may be honored outside the City Hall/County Courthouse building in downtown St. Paul where he served in those positions.
The Ramsey County Board on Tuesday committed up to $100,000 for a “recognition project” in honor of Cohen, 82, who retired in 2002 after 14 years on the district court bench.
What shape the tribute would take remains to be seen, said Rich Kramer, who belongs to an ad hoc committee directing the campaign.
But whether it’s a statue, a plaque or some other piece of public art, the memorial likely would go on the plaza at the corner of Kellogg Boulevard and Wabasha Street outside the City Hall/Courthouse.
“Larry has been unrecognized for some of his really substantial accomplishments, and he still remains active,” said Kramer, who represents St. Paul’s East Side and the northern part of Dakota County on the Metropolitan Council.
“There’s an interest in doing some appropriate recognition of his contributions to St. Paul and the greater community.”
Cohen practiced law before being elected to the Ramsey County Board in 1970. Two years later, he was elected mayor of St. Paul, serving two terms before stepping down in 1976. Gov. Rudy Perpich made him a Ramsey County district judge in 1988.
Cohen was instrumental in the renovation and reuse of the old federal courthouse, now called Landmark Center, and he reorganized city government. He served on the Metropolitan Airports Commission for 11 years and was named Trial Court Judge of the Year in 1995.
The board’s action Tuesday directs county staffers to work with St. Paul, community members and interested parties to establish a Cohen memorial, and encourages them to provide matching funds.
The county’s funding, which comes from the City Hall/Courthouse fund balance, would be used to plan, design and build the foundation and setting for the tribute once enough money has been raised for “public art or other decorative element.”
Kramer said the project has been in the discussion stages for about a year. If enough financial support can be garnered, he said, a community process probably would be launched to decide what the memorial would look like.