Lorraine Cecil receives State DFL honor

Lorraine Cecil, matriarch of the Beltrami County DFL, won election recently to the State DFL Hall of Distinguished Service, the local party announced Thursday.

Lorraine Cecil, matriarch of the Beltrami County DFL, won election recently to the State DFL Hall of Distinguished Service, the local party announced Thursday.

The honor came earlier this month from the State DFL Central Committee, with Cecil nominated by Democratic National Committee member and former State DFL Chairman Rick Stafford.

The state honor is the third for Cecil, who lives in Bemidji and winters in Tucson, Ariz. In 2000, she was an inaugural inductee into the state Democrat-Farmer-Labor Party's new Women's Hall of Fame. In 1997, Cecil was given the Hubert H. Humphrey Award, the DFL's highest award for long-time party volunteers, given yearly at the party's Humphrey Day Dinner.

Cecil, coordinator emerita of external studies at Bemidji State University, retiring in 1993, has been active in local Democratic politics for more than 40 years, as well as her late husband, Jim Cecil, who taught political science at BSU.

The resolution establishing the DFL Hall of Distinguished Service provides that the Central Committee may annually elect up to four members to the hall.


Stafford's nomination notes that Cecil's home "was and is still known as the 'Inn of First Resort' by local candidates and campaigns for many years."

The Cecils always have made available a room for the young party and campaign workers, the Beltrami County DFL statement said.

Noting Lorraine Cecil has served as Beltrami County DFL chairwoman and 7th Congressional District DFL chairwoman for several terms, Stafford's nomination adds that she has been "always a mentor of young women and men, she is aware of the problems in northwest Minnesota and is there whenever needed."

Taken aback by the award, Cecil said in the statement that "something tells me that someone erred in their choice considering the other recipients of this honor."

Contacted in Tucson, a typically modest Cecil added that "I guess it just shows that if you're around long enough someone is going to give you an award."

Beltrami County DFL Chairwoman Pamela McCrory, who attended the Central Committee meeting, said that "it was a unanimous vote for the recommendations of the committee and took all of 60 seconds.

"We're so proud of Lorraine; she is indeed an inspiration to us all," McCrory added, "and she remains quite active, being one of our best campaign and party volunteers, spending hours on the phone promoting our candidates for public office."

Most recently, Cecil served as campaign chairwoman for the successful Minnesota Senate campaign of Mary Olson of Bemidji, who ousted an incumbent Republican state senator.


Over the years, Cecil has also sold tickets, did fund-raising, has been a block worker, organized wards, worked the phone on voter identification drives, participated in get-out-the-vote drives, made persuasive calls on behalf of candidates, written news releases, planned dinners and receptions and served in a number of party offices.

She was a national Democratic delegate to the party convention in 1988 at Atlanta, Ga., which nominated Gov. Michael Dukakis of Massachusetts in a presidential race with GOP Vice President George H.W. Bush.

In other words, she's carried a lot of water for the party over the years.

And, along with that, "I have a million political stories, and they go on from here and circle the house," she said in a 2000 interview when named to the Women's Hall of Fame.

Among her more unusual tasks, Cecil in 1996 represented the 7th District DFL as a delegate to cast a state vote for Bill Clinton in the nation's Electoral College, which actually elects the president.

That fete was only recently duplicated in 2004 with Michael Meuers, another long-time Beltrami County DFL activist, representing the 7th District in the Electoral College, casting a state vote for John Kerry, who won the popular vote in Minnesota.

"I believe in the party system," Cecil said in the 2000 interview. "I don't know another way of getting people with like interests to work together than a party organization. The trouble is, some people are so zealous in their beliefs that they can't see that other people who have some different interests (and) they don't want them on the wagon. They start shoving people off, instead of getting them all involved.

"Sometimes indeed politics does make strange bedfellows," she said. "That's a strength, rather than a weakness."


Cecil's name will be added to a plaque at the State DFL Party Headquarters in St. Paul, joining such DFL former stalwarts as Gov. and U.S. Sen. Wendell Anderson, Secretary of State Joan Anderson Growe, northwest Minnesota U.S. Rep. Coya Knutson, Attorney General Warren Spannaus, 7th District U.S. Rep. and U.S. Agriculture Secretary Bob Berglund, Minnesota House Speaker Dee Long, U.S. Sen. Eugene McCarthy, state Senate Majority Leader Roger Moe, Gov. Floyd Olson, Gov. Rudy Perpich, Vice President Walter Mondale, and U.S. Sen. Paul and Sheila Wellstone.

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