Charlie Berg, legislator who served three parties, dies
CHOKIO, Minn. — During his 30 years at the Minnesota Capitol, former state Sen. Charlie Berg was known as a maverick and one of the more colorful, outspoken members of the Legislature.
Berg, of Chokio, died January 22 at the age of 86. The Pedersen Funeral Home in Morris is in charge of arrangements. No services have yet been announced.
Representative Tony Cornish, R-Vernon Center, lobbied for conservation officers while Berg was in office.
“I liked him, because I thought that we had some of the same traits,” Cornish said Monday. “He was not afraid to say what he thought.”
Berg bore the distinction of being the only member of the Legislature to represent both parties and serve as an independent. He was first elected to the Senate in 1972 and retired at the end of 2002.
During his political service, he lost only one election.
Berg was elected in 1972 as an independent and served as an independent until 1980, when he ran as a Republican. In 1986, he began running as a member of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party. In 1996, he started running as an independent again.
In 1996, the last time he moved away from a political party, Berg said he would enjoy being a “free agent” once again.
After the DFL did not endorse him in 1996, he left the party.
“Somebody’s got to represent the people out here,” he said, when he announced that he would be running for re-election as an independent.
“Whatever label I’ve got on my back, I’ve always voted the same way,” he said in 1996. “I’m a conservative, independent voter, and I’m not going to let the parties dictate to me how I should vote for the district.”
Berg won his election in 1996 and in 2000 as an independent. He decided not to run again in 2002 after redistricting placed him in the same district as another incumbent senator.
Berg was a farmer and concentrated on agricultural and environmental issues in the Legislature. He worked on issues related to natural resources, tourism and farm policy.
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Don Davis contributed to this story.