SUBSCRIBE NOW Just 99¢ for your first month



Former Duluth Mayor Ben Boo remembered as a 'gentle leader'

Former Duluth mayor and Minnesota House of Representatives District 8B representative Benjamin Boo died Dec. 1.

We are part of The Trust Project.

When thinking of his mentor Benjamin Boo, fellow former mayor Gary Doty always thought of him as a "very gentle man."

"I never saw him get angry with anybody," Doty said. "He was the kind of guy who wanted everybody to work together rather than pick sides."

Former Duluth mayor and former District 8B representative in the Minnesota House, Boo died Dec. 1 at 96 years old. Boo served the city of Duluth as mayor for nearly two terms and served the city again in the Minnesota House for a decade.

Boo was born in Pine City in 1925. After graduating high school, he attended the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College and joined the Air Force in 1942. He flew B-29 bomber planes in the South Pacific theater before returning home to marry his wife Mary.

After returning home, Boo continued to serve in the National Guard during the Korean and Vietnam wars. He moved to Duluth in 1958 when he became the purchasing agent for St. Louis County. The couple raised six children and today have 13 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.


He was first elected as Duluth's mayor in 1967. Boo was known for being a big proponent of tourism and oversaw the creation of Spirit Mountain. He left the mayoral office partway through his second term in order to become the executive director of the Western Lake Superior Sanitary District.

"I think his greatest achievement was the establishment of the WLSSD. That’s something that's still in existence today and still running well," said Rep. Mary Murphy, of the Minnesota House of Representatives District 3B. Murphy and Boo served in the House together in the 1980s.

After running the WLSSD for several years, Boo ran again for mayor, but lost to John Fedo. Then he turned his sights on state legislation and ran for the District 8B seat when Tom Berkelman vacated the seat in 1983. He served in the Legislature until 1993.

"He was cordial in everything, especially in leadership," Murphy said. "He was a leader in many aspects of his life, from the military to his community to his family and definitely in the Legislature. And he always did his homework."

Murphy said Boo and his wife Mary were well-known in the region for hosting a holiday party for local leaders throughout the 80s.

"And we'd get together and just have a nice time. People from across the aisle would get together and it was always a pleasant experience," Murphy said. "I appreciated sharing conversations with the two of them."

Gary Doty remembered his father negotiating with Boo as a union leader in the 1960s. Doty looked up to Boo and saw him as a mentor. When he was elected mayor in 1992, Doty called Boo to ask for his advice.

"I was dealing with some issues I didn't expect within my first few weeks," Doty said. "I asked Ben for advice and he told me things will settle down. He always said, 'Do what you think is right. If you feel it's right, you do it.' I really respected him."

Teri Cadeau is a general assignment and neighborhood reporter for the Duluth News Tribune. Originally from the Iron Range, Cadeau has worked for several community newspapers in the Duluth area for eight years including: The Duluth Budgeteer News, Western Weekly, Weekly Observer, Lake County News-Chronicle and occasionally, the Cloquet Pine Journal. When not working, she's an avid reader and crafter.
What to read next
Learn more about these pets looking for a permanent home.
One more time to canoe country.
Learn more about these pets looking for a permanent home.
After a year off, the Rosie Awards have returned to honor and recognize women who make a difference in their communities.