A new home at the dome

Semi-retirement includes a political beat for longtime newspaper man


ECM political reporters T.W. Budig, left, and Howard Lestrud flank the official portrait of Gov. Elmer Andersen which hangs at the state Capitol. After serving in office, Andersen founded ECM Publishers. (Photo submitted)

Howard Lestrud
ECM Political Editor

Abraham Lincoln is alive and well. It seems this is true, seeing the many books, periodicals, television specials and movie productions that are before us.

In my new assignment as political editor for ECM Publishers, I just might try to gain an interview with America’s 16th president. I haven’t seen the movie yet but in a future column, I plan to visit about it. I watched the trailer video and that’s enough to get your history loving corpuscles hopping and jumping.

This leads me to share my excitement in my new assignment as a political editor for ECM Publishers. This is another chapter in my 50-plus-years newspaper career. I entered semi-retirement nearly two years ago, still carrying out some of my duties dedicated to HometownSource and to the ECM Editorial Board. I am now shifting away from HometownSource. I will continue leading a conference call once a week with the editors of ECM Publishers. I hope to continue serving on the ECM Editorial Board and now will work side by side at times with ECM Publishers’ capitol reporter, Tim Budig.

Our mission will be to continue providing news stories on the happenings at the Capitol, happenings that accent the local impact of state government.

Our ECM Capitol coverage has the potential of reaching over 650,000 households. I have worked with Tim in previous years, more as a sounding board for his assignments. Now, we will work together in bringing political impact to the newspapers and online publications you read.

Government has always intrigued me from a historical standpoint. Working with Tim, I have witnessed history as it happens through his pen and camera lens. Together, we covered the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul. I now plan on utilizing those same tools to bring topics forward that appeal to our readers.

This new commitment by ECM Publishers to provide more well-rounded government news coverage will see a partnership, too, with MinnPost in providing coverage of our Minnesota delegation in the U.S. Congress, our two U.S. senators and eight U.S. representatives. MinnPost has had Devin Henry in Washington covering national politics and the Minnesota congressional delegation for MinnPost since May 2011.

Let’s meet Devin Henry. Before his Washington assignment, Henry was editor in chief of the Minnesota Daily, the student newspaper at the University of Minnesota. He’s previously done internships with the St. Paul Pioneer Press and the Minneapolis-St. Paul Business Journal. A native of Minnesota, Henry often travels home to cover the congressional delegation back in the state, including two month-long trips before November’s election. Henry grew up in Shakopee and graduated from the U in 2011 with degrees in journalism and political science.

A strong cog in our government news reporting team is Tim Budig, known as T.W. Budig in his byline. He started at the Capitol in the last months of the Carlson Administration, so that would have been the latter part of 1997 – wow, that’s a long time ago, just like 50 years ago for me. Budig has been in the newspaper business more than 20 years. His first job was on a tiny community newspaper in Circle Pines, though he had done some freelance work prior to that.

Budig has been connected to many of the newsmakers at the Capitol since he started his Capitol reporter assignment in late 1998. Here’s how Tim describes his work: “One thing I like about the Capitol is that the place is greater than the people in it. That is, while people come and go, the larger ideals outlast everybody, which is the way it’s suppose to be. It’s both stirring and humbling.”

Some of the most challenging stories he’s dealt with are the ones that go on and on and on. The Vikings stadium story was one. The years of debate over the Northstar Commuter Rail Line was another.

During many of our daily chats a few years ago when we worked more closely together, we would kibitz about the Vikings and Packers. Tim is a staunch cheesehead and proud of it. I push the purple power.

In looking ahead to what might be on the state government burners, I also take a moment to look back at my involvement with being a political observer/reporter. As a young editor of my college newspaper in Austin, I vividly remember doing a page layout on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. During JFK’s campaign, I visited a local campaign office and still proudly cling to a Kennedy for President campaign pin.

One of my biggest assignments early in my newspaper career at The Evening Tribune in Albert Lea was covering Richard Nixon’s presidential campaign stop in Rochester, one week before the 1968 election. With proper credentials I had the opportunity to photograph Nixon from about 10 feet away. I even snapped a photo of him doing his famous Victory hands salute.

Those photos from that appearance nearly covered the front page of that day’s newspaper. It was a real rush for a young reporter. I also earned a tongue lashing from a Boston Globe photographer for having my right elbow too high in the air, shielding his view. Oh well, I learned.

Sitting at my Evening Tribune desk one day in my days as a cub reporter, I was nudged by an extended hand. The introduction came next: “Hello, I’m Eugene McCarthy.”

I have had the opportunity to have covered events including these presidents: Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

I’ve also interviewed the following Minnesota governors: Elmer L. Andersen, Harold LeVander, Wendell Anderson, Al Quie, Arne Carlson, Jesse Ventura, Tim Pawlenty and Mark Dayton. Agreed, other journalists have covered more presidents and governors but these opportunities help me appreciate current events.

Via this column and news stories, I plan to provide political news of interest. If you have a political question in mind, or have a story idea, send it my way: [email protected]