Denfeld News

Oct. 12, 2008
Duluth News Tribune

Longtime Budgeteer columnist Dick Palmer calls it quits
By Andy Greder

Politician Gary Doty didn’t care for columnist Dick Palmer or what he had written in a 1974 issue of the Duluth Budgeteer.

Doty, a recently elected 26-year-old state legislator, telephoned Palmer, a former legislator, to voice his dislike.

“He told me, ‘You gotta get used to this,’ ” Doty said Saturday of the criticism often associated with politics. “He calmed me down. He’s just a great guy.”

Neither Palmer nor Doty, who went on to become mayor of Duluth, remembers the contentious issue, but that conversation was the start of a 34-year friendship. On Saturday in West Duluth, Doty shared other affable characteristics of the 78-year-old Palmer during a celebration of his more than 60-year career at the Budgeteer.

With a broom in hand, Palmer’s career began at age 12 on cleanup duty at the community newspaper his father, Herb Palmer, started in 1931. After a stint training for the National Guard, he moved to advertising and writing in the 1955 and was publisher from 1982 to 1995. He continued to write his conservative-leaning column through September.

Palmer was famous for his “Action Editor” column, which came with the description, “This column is dedicated to solving problems, getting answers, cutting red tape. We’ll stand up for your rights.”

As a West Duluth and consumer advocate, Palmer voiced citizen concerns from dilapidated city property to excessive dog barking.

“I think it should have been called ‘The Conscious of the Community,’ ” said former Duluth Police Chief Eli Miletich. “It was very truthful, very objective and, in fact, some of us didn’t like what he said, but over a period of time I think we began to agree with him.”

Palmer also wrote 312 “easy” profiles of prominent city figures.

“I looked for people that in my eyes made a contribution to the community,” Palmer said Saturday. “It was a lot of fun and the interviews were easy.

“The relationship with the neighborhood keeps me going. I just love the people.”

In 1970, Palmer ran for a seat in the Minnesota House of Representatives against 22-year Democratic-Farmer-Labor party incumbent Francis “Frenchy” LaBroose.

With the campaign slogan, “If Palmer wins — you win,” Palmer campaigned as an independent with a pledge to vote with the majority party. After winning the election, the House was split down the middle with 33 conservatives, 33 liberals and one independent — Palmer. After much wrangling among colleagues, he primarily voted with the conservatives during his two-year tenure before returning to the newspaper.

Palmer didn’t shy away from writing controversial opinions. In April 2007, he wrote, “The only real internal growth we have experienced is in the government sector. We have been really good at this; folks flock to Duluth from Chicago and Detroit for a free handout and have been doing it for years. Our growing crime rate reflects this misadventure.”

Palmer defended that view Saturday. “I guess I was always suspect of social services. I knew there were people that take advantage of it. There were some bureaucrats against me, but that is OK. I wanted to educate people in what was best for their well-being.”

Now, Palmer plans to write with two books as well as possible guest columns for the Budgeteer. One of the books will be about the 1971 legislative session and the other will be a collection of his profiles.

“I hate to see you go, Dick,” Miletich said. “I think the Budgeteer should put you in chains and keep you in their office to continue to write the column because you are a man of vision, and you are a man who’s honest.”

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