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Murdock will be missed

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I was sad to hear this week that Rep. Mark Murdock won't be running for a third term in the Minnesota Legislature.

I've actually known Mark for years before he decided to seek office. I remember when he and his wife bought a hardware store on Main Street in Perham back when I lived there. It was a competitive scene, with three hardware stores in a single city block radius. But I knew right away that the Murdocks would do well.

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I recall walking into his store one day with a part of a toilet in my hand, looking rather confused. Mark himself walked up to me and said, "what are you working on?"

Notice he didn't say, "what can I sell you?" or even, "what do you want?"

I explained the problems I was having with a toilet that kept running. He led me through his store to a part that cost less than $2, then proceeded to explain to me how to go through the entire installation process.

That made a big impression -- that he would spend that much time with a customer when he didn't stand to make a lot of money.

I remember years later someone from one of the Initiative Foundations in Minnesota telling me when she wanted to show a client great customer service, she'd bring the client to the Murdocks' hardware store.

When Mark ran for the Legislature, he replaced a guy I also had tremendous respect for: Dean Simpson, the grocery store owner and former mayor of New York Mills. It made sense to me, because Murdock shared Simpson's even-keeled attitude and his great common sense.

Murdock has made a lot of friends in the district over the years, and has served well in the Legislature.

But I worry that good, common-sense driven elected officials like Mark and Dean are being driven away from the job. It's so partisan now. So nasty. Good people are just appalled when they become part of that contentious body.

I'm not saying that's what drove Mark away from the Legislature. He did cite wanting to spend more time with family, and in his case, I know that must be a central reason. People don't understand the toll being away for months from your family takes not only on you, but on them. And then there are the endless parades, speaking engagements, meetings and business openings you're expected to attend. In fact, if you don't, people feel slighted and want to turn you into an enemy.

All the while you endure endless criticism from many sources, even guys like me in the media.

But in the end, once you're outside that bubble, you do have a few years of service to the state of Minnesota and the people in your district, and that will leave a lasting legacy.

We're sad to lose Murdock in the legislature, but we can be happy to have him back here full-time in the district.

Steve Schulz is the Pioneer Journal's editor and publisher.

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