Colleagues remember Senator Tomassoni’s Legacy

Published: Aug. 12, 2022 at 10:48 PM CDT
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CHISHOLM, MN. (KBJR) - Colleagues and friends of Senator David Tomassoni remembered his legacy Thursday after his passing.

The long-time Iron Range politician served in the state senate for two decades, before that in the state house.

Colleagues said he’ll leave a legacy that will last forever.

“Me personally, I am honored and blessed that I was able to serve with him,” said Rep. Dave Lislegard of Aurora.

Republican Senator Justin Eichorn of Grand Rapids also remembered the late Senator from Chisholm.

“We were district neighbors, we sat close to each other on the floor,” Eichorn said.

Eichorn worked with Tomassoni to pass legislation on wild rice. When he first got to the senate, Tomassoni showed him the ropes.

“He kinda took me under his wing, and he walked me through the whole process, I learned so much from him,” he said.

Tomassoni entered the capitol in 1992 as a State Representative. Eight years later he moved to the capitol’s upper chamber, serving there until this year.

“He was a master of, you know, getting projects for Northern Minnesota,” Eichorn said, “which I think was really cool, I learned a lot from him on that front as well.”

From mining to economic development, the longtime DFLer turned Independent worked with lawmakers from both sides of the aisle to get results for the Iron Range.

“His office was always kind of a gathering place people from both sides of the aisle would congregate,” Senator Eichorn said.

This year, Tomassoni decided this spring would be the end of his time in the senate after being diagnosed with ALS.

“Through it all I have met and became great friends with many people,” he said giving his farewell speech.

During the address, he thanked his family for helping him while he was away in the cities working on legislation for so many years.

“I have to thank the entire family, my wife Charlotte and our children,” he said, “for everything they have had to endure during my absence.”

In a wheelchair at that point, the disease attacked his nervous sytem, leaving him unable to walk or speak. He used a computer to deliver his speech on the Senate floor.

ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, cripples the nervous system, making it hard to walk, talk and eventually, breathe.

“Somebody who is living with ALS, their motor neurons die, so those messages aren’t being delivered,” Jennifer Hjelle, the Chief Executive Officer of the Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota of the ALS Foundation said.

Hjelle said although the disease made it hard for him to do simple tasks, he still worked to pass bills.

“So the legislation that was passed, that Senator Tomassoni lead, was really historic,” she said.

She’s talking about a bill Tomassoni wrote to give $20 million in funding for ALS research and $5 million to help caregivers of people living with ALS.

“It’s the largest ALS bill that any state has passed,” she said.

Although Tomassoni passed from ALS, Hjelle said his work to give more funding for research could help save the lives of people living with the disease.

“I am hopeful that his words and his wisdom will continue to lead and guide people’s decisions,” she said.

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