Aug. 21, 2006

Martha Langfeld: homegrown political innovator

By Kristen Miller
Staff Writer

Growing up on Lake Stella, Margaret Langfeld has always had an interest in public policy where people were well represented.

Daughter of Bill and Clara Casey, Langfeld has built a cabin on her family’s land, where she will soon enjoy her retirement.

In 1976, Langfeld decided to “put her foot in the water” and run for Blaine city council and in 1982, she ran for something bigger.

Langfeld became the first woman elected to the Anoka County Board.

“Part of politics is being at the right place at the right time,” she said.

That year, there was no incumbent and she had already spent six years in city office, but the county was where she could work with human services.

Her interests lay in services that help the disabled, mentally ill, unemployed, and seniors, Langfeld said.

A woman who has had many accomplishments, Langfeld received national and state awards for innovation and finding better ways to serve others while focusing on saving taxpayer dollars, she said.

In 1995, Langfeld received the Morris Hursh Award for her leadership roles in providing services to the public. “This is considered a very prestigious award,” she said. It had previously been awarded to Hubert Humphrey, according to Langfeld.

She was the second woman to be president of the Minnesota Association of Counties representing 87 counties in Minnesota at the state legislature and Congress.

This was where she met Meeker County Commissioner Amy Wilde. She and Wilde were working with the same health and human services committee under the Association of Counties.

Wilde had worked with Langfeld but hadn’t realized she was from Meeker County until she saw Langfeld at last year’s Darwin festival.

All the while, Langfeld had been a mentor for Wilde, “and here she’s from Meeker County,” Wilde explained.

“Margaret has been a delightful person to work with in developing more efficient health and human service policies within the state,” Wilde said.

She explained how Langfeld’s ancestors were one of the first settlers in Meeker County. “Now, here she is...a pioneer,” Wilde said.

Langfeld was a founder of the battered women’s shelter in Anoka County which had been nonexistent for 25 years, she said.

After 27 years, she continues to be active in raising money for the Alexandra House, which the name means, “defender of women,” according to Langfeld.

For her, the most challenging part of being in politics is seeing “so many things that would be good to do, but knowing there isn’t enough money to do them,” she said.

This idea is what has lead her to be innovative in raising money. For example, public and private partnerships.

Langfeld created the Anoka County Partners, to bring businesses into the county to provide employment and pay taxes.

This otherwise, “wasn’t going to get done because we didn’t have the money,” Langfeld said.

“It’s a matter of thinking differently about things,” she said.

Langfeld has been very excited in chairing “Future,” a committee that looks at different ways government can make money, she said.

“It’s fun and frustrating because it moves so slowly,” Langfeld said about Future.

Langfeld knows that it takes patience in politics.

“People don’t make radical change quickly,” she said.

Langfeld will retire at the first of the year from the Anoka County Board, but will continue her efforts in human services.

She plans to spend her retirement traveling and spending more time at her Lake Stella home.

“I love being in Meeker County,” Langfeld said.

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