by Karl Kurtz
In my 40 or so years of observing, studying and hanging out with legislators and legislative staff, I have found a great many of them whom I admire and look up to. Somewhere near the top of my list would be Minnesota's John Brandl, who, better than anyone else I know, has been able to combine a career in the legislature and public life with "the academy," as he is fond of calling his 30-year affiliation with the Humphrey Institute at the University of Minnesota.
For 15 years, 1990-2004, John was director of the Legislative Staff Management Institute, an executive management program for senior legislative staff cosponsored by NCSL and the Humphrey Institute. He and I were partners in this enterprise. John, a professor of economics who served for 12 years in the Minnesota Legislature, was the person who made LSMI "jell" (an inside joke that one class will recognize). He had a unique ability, through personal warmth, scholarly rigor, public policy perspective and hard-knocks political stories, to bring together our disparate classes of senior legislative staff from all across the country.
One of John's favorite stories is about how much he liked working in both academic and political life because one of these jobs could relieve the burdens of the other: "When I got tired of the politics, the backstabbing and the nastiness of my job, I would leave the campus and go over to the capitol and get a new lease on life," he would say.
Lori Sturdevant of the Minneapolis Star Tribune wrote a marvelous column this past weekend, "The professor of policy," about John.
John is currently battling a recurrence of stomach cancer that first surfaced a year ago. The Humphrey Institute held a dinner to honor him tonight. I would have liked to have been there but couldn't. Instead I share these few thoughts in The Thicket about an admirable man. The roughly 300 legislative staff who experienced LSMI under John join me in wishing him good courage and keeping him in our prayers.
The Legislative Staff Management Institute has since moved to Sacramento under the cosponsorship of the University of Southern California and Sacramento State University, but we honor our 15 year history with the faculty of the Humphrey Institute, none moreso than John Brandl.