Hartman leaves lasting legacy
The memories came flowing back to my mind after I heard the news that Clayton Hartman had died. I spent many an hour sitting at city council meetings over most of his 22 years as mayor, and I have interviewed him on several occasions.
I thought back to his legacy. I had witnessed many of the changes that took place in the city over the years that I covered the city council meetings: the city receiving a HUD grant and purchasing the former Northern Pacific railroad property through town, new business development on former railroad property, the replacement of the troublesome and expensive-to-operate bubble with a nice, big hockey arena building, a new city garage, and the Soo Line Depot being turned into a museum after that railroad had been removed.
The former Northern Pacific Depot downtown had to be demolished because of its poor condition and location, but the Soo Line Depot was saved and restored.
I can still see him standing in the waiting room of the depot and looking around.
“It was right that this depot was saved,” he said.
Clayton Hartman was mayor during the transition from the state hospital to the prison. It was a fear in the community that if the state hospital were closed, the town would die. He made sure that didn’t happen, and we have the prison, which means jobs and economic stability, as a result.
And, in addition, Moose Lake became the home of another facility for the sex offender program. More jobs, more economic stability.
I heard Mayor Hartman and the council discuss ways to develop property on Kenwood Avenue beyond Mercy Hospital. I remember him saying at the ground-breaking for the first assisted living home that it had been his goal for many years to see that property developed.
It took quite a few years, but now that property is the site of attractive assisted living homes, town homes and private homes. It all came to pass during his lifetime.
He spent his last years in one of the assisted living homes and appreciated it.
Clayton Hartman had come to Moose Lake right after World War II in a brand new 1946 Ford with his bride, Bunny, to teach at Moose Lake High School. He later became principal, and he recounted several stories of truant students in his booklet, “Moose Lake: Stories From Along the Way.”
Clayton was also instrumental in organizing the Moose Lake Area Historical Society, and another tale in the booklet tells of a character that he and others with him met in Lawler when they went in search of historical items.
To honor him for all of his contributions to the school and the community, Clayton Hartman was inducted to the Moose Lake School District’s Wall of Fame in 2010.
Clayton had two vintage cars that he polished and babied through many years of his life.
One of them was his first car, a 1915 Model T. He told stories about his and Bunny’s trips in the Model T in his booklet, “Adventures with Lizzie.” He enjoyed stopping at various places with Lizzie and hearing memories of others who remembered a car just like it and their own adventures in their cars.
That Model T is now on display at the historical society’s museum.
Grand marshals have ridden in the back seat of the 1946 Ford convertible for more years than I can remember, including Clayton on the Fourth of July this past summer when he rode with Grand Marshal Ted Pihlman, who had once served on the city council. I can still see Clayton sitting there, with a smile on his face. He was enjoying every moment.
Clayton Hartman showed leadership during a critical time in the city’s and state’s history, when the proposal was brought to the city council to ban smoking from restaurants. If approved, Moose Lake would be the first city in Minnesota to ban smoking.
He visited with many business owners and citizens of the city and asked for their opinions before casting his vote.
From their input, he voted not to ban smoking. His vote created a tie.
Councilor John Unzen had the deciding vote, and spoke of all of the emails and telephone calls that he had received from citizens asking that smoking be banned.
He voted to ban smoking, and the rest is history. Moose Lake was put on the map by becoming the first city to ban smoking in restaurants.
That movement spread to other cities, and now smoking is banned from bars and restaurants throughout the state. It all started right here in Moose Lake.
I spoke with Clayton Hartman at his home at Oakview Residential Care this fall, and he wanted to know more about the all-class reunion being planned for next summer. He expressed his wish that he might still be around to attend the reunion.
Now, with his passing, others will have to carry on without him.
Clayton Hartman touched many lives in his two long careers in Moose Lake. He has become a legend, and he was instrumental in leaving a lasting legacy that remains to this day.