Long-time Northside Senator Carl Kroening died recently. During his 22 years in the MN State Legislature, Carl did a lot for all of the people of Minneapolis, including our community. He became one of the most powerful legislators. I remember talking to a high level Minneapolis City staffer shortly after Carl announced his retirement—the staffer said he disagreed vehemently with Carl on a social issue but was extremely sorry to see Carl leave because he brought so much money to the City and was so strong on working people’s issues. While I disagreed with Carl strongly on a few issues, I supported him because I knew that he was a leader on many issues which helped people like those of us on the Northside.
Carl was an interesting character. He was a Staff Sergeant in the Army during the Korean War. He had masters’ degrees in engineering and education, and taught chemistry in Minneapolis schools before becoming an assistant principal. He was also on the Higher Education Coordinating Commission, and was DFL Senate District Chair before entering the legislature.
Carl didn’t talk about the fact he was a letterman in football at the University of Minnesota under the legendary coach, Bernie Bierman. When I heard that, I asked Carl if he played at the U when Leo Nomellini played there. Carl said “Yes, I got knocked on my ___ everyday in practice. I was like a blocking dummy for him.” (Leo went on to become one of the greatest tackles in the history of the NFL). Carl could laugh at himself.
Carl loved parks and was a major funder of the local and state park systems through the legislative committees he chaired. He played a big role in the downtown riverfront. And Carl is the one who created our North Mississippi Regional Park and set up a funding stream that lasted for decades.
In the mid-‘80s I was a leader of a grassroots effort to stop the Hennepin County Garbage Burner from being located along the river near Lowry. The County Board and City Council had agreed on that site and we got nowhere with them. So I went to Carl. He paired up with our State Representative Jim Rice and they stopped it from going in on the Northside. Another time, I went to Carl with a proposed bill to stop one method Savings and Loans were using to take advantage of consumers. Despite the fact other legislators said the S&Ls were in control of the committee, Carl got the bill passed. Another thing I worked with him on was tax disparities between rural and urban Minnesota. He had research done to show the discrepancy between what rural areas paid in taxes and received back, and what urban areas paid and received back. When Carl retired I took the lead on those studies and we used them to make the taxation more fair.
As Chair of the Jobs, Housing and Economic Development committee Carl had an enormous impact on those issues, all of which were important to the residents of the Northside. For a while, the jurisdiction of his committee was so broad that he could have a say in most issues facing the legislature.
Carl was deeply religious and was active in St. Austin Church. Those of us who knew him agreed he would do anything to help a friend in need. Carl left a great record of accomplishments in the legislature. We all owe him thanks for his hard work on our behalf.
This article was written by former State Representative Joe Mullery