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Tony Kirwin
Tony Kirwin

Breaking the Ice: Rob Ecklund brings northeast to Capitol

Editor’s note: Breaking the Ice helps reserved Minnesotans learn more about their colleagues and their lives beyond their jobs.

Name: Rob Ecklund

Title: Representative, District 3A

Education: Falls High School in International Falls, classes at Rainy River Community College and Bemidji State University.

Rep. Rob Ecklund, DFL-International Falls, doesn’t leave District 3A behind when he makes the weekly commute to St. Paul. The freshman legislator’s Capitol office features works from artists in his northeastern Minnesota district. The district, the state’s largest, includes all of Cook, Koochiching and Lake counties and the northern and eastern parts of St. Louis County.

The former Koochiching County commissioner won a special election in December to succeed the late legislator David Dill, a DFLer from Crane Lake who died last year.

What’s the best way to start a conversation with you?

I’m displaying local artists’ work in my office. So if somebody has a comment on one of the paintings or the photographs, I’d be happy to talk about that. District 3A is, in my humble opinion, the most beautiful district in the state of Minnesota. We’ve got Lake Superior, Voyageurs National Park, the Boundary Waters (Canoe Area Wilderness), the rock bridge formations and all that. Or, I was a hockey coach for 17 years, so if you talk sports you’ll always engage me.

Who is the first presidential candidate you voted for and why? 

Jimmy Carter in 1976. I’ve always voted for Democrats because the party generally is in line with my beliefs. I was in boot camp in Camp Pendleton for the Marine Corps, and my drill instructor had to witness my ballot. He gave me nothing but grief for voting for Jimmy Carter.

What are some of your favorite books?

One is called “Playing God in Yellowstone.” It opens your eyes up to how we have managed and/or mismanaged some of our greatest treasures. … The other one is Paul Wellstone’s book, “The Conscience of a Liberal.”

What’s your favorite activity outside of your job?

[Campaign treasurer] Dave Peterson and I are partners in a lake cabin on Rainy Lake and a hunting camp west of International Falls near the small town of Indus. Those two places are where I like to spend a majority of my time. You can’t get any better than having a cabin 300 yards from Voyageurs National Park.

What’s your pet peeve?

People that talk about an issue without knowing the facts. We Democrats really like to get down on the climate change deniers and say they’re not following science. At same time in northern Minnesota we have some mining projects and potential mining projects, and our same people that get down on the people that are climate change deniers do not like to follow the science when it has an effect on something they may be against. We’ve got to be balanced at all times. If we’re going to follow the science we’re going to have to follow the science. It doesn’t matter what the issue is.

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