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Former MN state Sen. Jim Vickerman dies at 89

Tracy area farmer and legislator remembered as advocate for rural MN

TRACY — He was approachable and a good listener — but sometimes, Jim Vickerman could also be a forceful advocate for causes he believed in, especially when they affected farms and rural communities.

“Sen. Vickerman was very much an advocate for rural Minnesota,” said former Minnesota Sen. Dennis Frederickson, who served alongside Vickerman in the state Senate.

Vickerman, a Tracy area farmer and a former Minnesota state legislator with 24 years of service, died Tuesday. He was 89.

Vickerman always treated others with kindness and respect, said Marty Seifert, a former Minnesota state representative who served in the Legislature with Vickerman for 14 years. Although they served in different parts of the Legislature and were members of different political parties, it was good to have Vickerman’s knowledge and seniority, Seifert said.

“He was really almost like a Democratic grandfather to me,” Seifert said. Regardless of political parties, Vickerman never hesitated to support projects that would benefit southwest Minnesota, like updates at Southwest Minnesota State University, and the establishment of the Minnesota Emergency Response and Industrial Training (MERIT) Center in Marshall, Seifert said.

Agriculture was always a topic Vickerman was passionate about, even before he ran for state Senate. Vickerman farmed near Tracy, and served as director of the Murray County Soil and Water Conservation District, and as a Murray County Commissioner. He was first elected to the Minnesota Senate in 1986, during the farm crisis.

Vickerman’s experiences as a farmer during that time period likely helped shape his dedication to agriculture as a senator, Seifert said.

“He wanted to make sure farmers were represented,” Seifert said.

Vickerman tended to approach state government in a moderate, non-partisan way, by listening to his constituents, Seifert and Frederickson said.

“He focused on issues. He wasn’t particularly partisan,” Frederickson said. However, Frederickson said, “He was a true rural senator, always watching for what was best for his constituents.”

While Vickerman was “always approachable” and respectful of others, his emotions could sometimes run high during arguments about issues that were important to him and his constituents, Frederickson said. Vickerman was a staunch supporter of the biodiesel and ethanol industries in Minnesota, Frederickson said. “Both of those issues helped farmers and brought jobs to rural Minnesota.”

Vickerman also believed in conservation and supporting veterans in Minnesota, Frederickson and Seifert said.

In 2010, both Vickerman and Frederickson said they would not be seeking re-election. They ended up sharing a special farewell on the last day of the legislative session, Frederickson said. At the time, Frederickson was serving as president pro tempore of the Senate. He and Vickerman made the final motion to adjourn the session together.

“It’s a big deal to leave elected office,” and Vickerman had enjoyed serving his constituents, Frederickson said.

“We could all learn a lesson from him,” Seifert said. “The Legislature misses the Jim Vickermans of the world.”

A private family funeral for Vickerman will be held at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, with a Facebook livestream on the Stephens Funeral Service Facebook page. A public visitation will be held from 5-7 p.m. today at Tracy Area Funeral Home. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, guests will be required to wear a mask and follow social distancing guidelines.

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