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Former East Grand Forks Mayor Lynn Stauss remembered for dedication to the city, efforts after Flood of '97

Stauss died Sunday, Sept. 11. He was 77.

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In this 2017 Herald photo, Lynn Stauss sits behind his desk at East Grand Forks City Hall, where he served as mayor for 21 years.
Jesse Trelstad/Grand Forks Herald
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GRAND FORKS – Mike Brown remembers Lynn Stauss, former mayor of East Grand Forks, as someone who “really moved his community forward” and was instrumental in efforts to rebuild his city after the devastating Flood of '97.

Stauss died Sunday, Sept. 11, at his home in rural Grand Forks. He suffered from chronic kidney disease and had been on dialysis for the past seven years. He was 77.

Mark Dayton and Lynn Stauss
In this Herald file photo, former Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton (left) and former East Grand Forks Mayor Lynn Stauss (right) share a laugh with a member of the audience during a question-and-answer session at East Grand Forks City Hall on Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2013.
John Stennes/Grand Forks Herald

Stauss served 21 years as East Grand Forks mayor, choosing not to run for re-election in 2016, citing health issues.

“We took several trips together to Washington, D.C., during our (flood) recovery, to do two things. One was to ask for help and the other was to say thank you for the help we got. (Stauss) was always leading the charge,” said Brown, a longtime mayor of Grand Forks. “He did very well.”

Stauss also was instrumental in distributing millions of dollars to flood victims from the Angel Fund, established by Joan Kroc, a philanthropist and widow of Ray Kroc, who built the McDonald’s hamburger chain. Joan Kroc was one of the first to aid residents of Greater Grand Forks after the Red River overran its banks in April 1997.

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Also after the flood, Brown said, Stauss played a key role in bringing “that fabulous Cabela’s sporting goods store in East Grand Forks. He was responsible, I think, in a large part, for that. He really moved his community forward.”

Stauss, who had been a fourth-grade teacher, had optimism and was “caring and giving,” Brown said. “And he was very proud of what East Grand Forks accomplished and how quickly they accomplished it – and, in fact, they made us look slow over here.”

Stauss “worked well with people — that’s really important with your council,” Brown said, noting that Stauss seemed to believe that “it doesn’t matter who gets the credit as long as it gets done. He would be behind the scenes on many positive things in moving his community forward.”

“What was good for his town was good for our town and vice versa,” Brown said.

Strong advocate

Stauss was known for often wearing a sweatshirt emblazoned with “USA” as he worked to help the city recover from the Flood of '97, said Robert “Punky” Beauchamp, who served as an East Grand Forks City Council member from 1988 to 2003, the last 10 years as president.

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In this Herald file photo from 2016, Lynn Stauss talks about his time in office as mayor of East Grand Forks. (Jesse Trelstad/Grand Forks Herald)
Jesse Trelstad/Grand Forks Herald

Beauchamp said Stauss, “like many long-serving people in East Grand Forks, was a strong advocate for all the people of East Grand Forks.

“He was a strong advocate for youth sports (and) the beautification of the city was big on his mind,” he said. “He wanted East Grand Forks to stand out.”

Stauss’ work, with others, in leading the city after the flood – including redevelopment of downtown and rebuilding of housing – were his major priorities, Beauchamp said.

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“When you think about what happened to the community – we had only eight dry houses in the whole community – we came back pretty strong, pretty fast,” he said. “And he played a part in that.”

Exceptional fundraiser

David Murphy, East Grand Forks city administrator, said Stauss “was always promoting the city of East Grand Forks.”

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In this Herald file photo, former Grand Forks Mayor Michael Brown, left, former East Grand Forks Mayor Lynn Stauss, center, and former Grand Forks Mayor Pat Owens share a laugh before unveiling a plaque honoring Owens on a bridge between the two cities. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald
Eric Hylden/AP

Murphy, who worked with Stauss for about two years, especially remembers the former mayor’s ability to raise funds “for things that improved the appearance of the city,” he said.

During a time when the city had to make cuts to balance the budget, the expenditure for flower baskets along the streets was eliminated. In the absence of public funding, Stauss raised funds for the flower baskets from businesses and private sources.

“He could fundraise better than any mayor I’ve ever worked with,” said Murphy, noting that he’s worked with about a dozen mayors over this career.

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Former East Grand Forks Mayor Lynn Stauss is shown in a Herald file photo take during a City Council meeting. He served as mayor of East Grand Forks for two decades.
Grand Forks Herald

Kelly Stauss, a daughter and one of three children of Lynn and Marjorie Stauss, said her father “would want to be remembered for his time as mayor and all he did for East Grand Forks in his 21 years as mayor.”

On a personal note, she said, “he loved his time at the lake and he loved spending time with his seven grandchildren.”

He would attend their activities in sports, theater, hockey and basketball. She and her father shared the same birthday, May 29, she said. “That was the biggest thing; we had 47 birthdays together.”

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Said Mayor Steve Gander: "I've heard it said that East Grand Forks looks better and has greater vitality now, after the Flood of '97, than it had before. I believe that's true, and for that we can thank the good Lord, the dedication of the federal government to our recovery, a great team of city council members and city staff, and the visionary leadership of Mayor Lynn Stauss."

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Related Topics: EAST GRAND FORKS
Pamela Knudson is a features and arts/entertainment writer for the Grand Forks Herald.

She has worked for the Herald since 2011 and has covered a wide variety of topics, including the latest performances in the region and health topics.

Pamela can be reached at pknudson@gfherald.com or (701) 780-1107.
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